Ocellated skink (Chalcides ocellatus)

Also known as: Eyed skink
Synonyms: Gongylus ocellatus, Lacerta ocellata, Seps ocellatus, Sincus ocellatus
GenusChalcides (1)
SizeHead-tail length: 20 - 30 cm (2)
Weightc. 22 - 39 g (3)

The ocellated skink has not yet been assessed by the IUCN Red List.

Named for the numerous black and white eyespots, or ‘ocelli’, on its back, the ocellated skink (Chalcides ocellatus) is a typical skink in appearance, with an elongated body, smooth, shiny scales and relatively short limbs. The characteristic eyespots form distinctive bands across its body, although the pattern of spots is variable, with some individuals lacking spots altogether. The background colouration of the upperparts of the ocellated skink may be light brown to yellowish-green or grey, while the underside is usually white (2) (4) (5) (6).

Juvenile ocellated skinks have a greenish tail, which becomes brown after half a year (5). A number of subspecies are recognised (1) (5).

The ocellated skink occurs across North Africa from Mauritania and Morocco to Somalia, as well as in southern Europe, including many Mediterranean islands. It also occurs in western Asia, from the Arabian Peninsula eastwards as far as Turkmenistan and Pakistan (1) (6) (7) (8).

This species usually prefers a mosaic of open ground for basking and dense vegetation cover for hiding, and is reported to inhabit open forest, Mediterranean scrub, patches of vegetation on coastal sands, and palm oases, as well as farms, cultivated fields, and even gardens and towns. The ocellated skink often burrows in leaf-litter, and can be found in rock crevices and under stones or wood (4) (5).

A rather shy and secretive lizard, spending most of its time near or within cover (4) (5) (6), the ocellated skink is mostly active during the day, or at dawn and dusk during very hot weather (5) (6). It is an active forager, feeding on a variety of invertebrate prey, including beetles, snails, spiders, ants, termites and crickets, as well as small lizards and some plant material (5) (9). Like many other lizards (10), the ocellated skink is able to shed its tail if attacked by a predator, and is then usually able to regenerate a new one (5) (6).

The ocellated skink is inactive during colder months, hibernating underground in some areas. Activity gradually increases in the spring, with mating usually occurring around April (3) (5). During the breeding season, male ocellated skinks may engage in ritualised combat, in which rival males alternately bite the other’s tail (5). Between April and September the female gives birth to around five to ten live young, after a gestation period estimated at two to three months (3) (5). The ocellated skink may live for up to 13 years in captivity (5).

There is little information available on the threats faced by the ocellated skink, although this species is believed to be relatively common, and is often found in towns and in agricultural areas (5). However, the ocellated skink appears to be readily available in the pet trade, with many specimens reported to be wild-caught (11), potentially posing a threat to the wild population.

There are no known conservation measures specifically in place for the ocellated skink, and the species has yet to be assessed by the IUCN Red List (12). However, it is protected in Europe under Appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention) (13), and under Annex IV of the EU Habitats Directive (14).

To find out more about this and other skink species, see:

Authenticated (16/12/11) by Olivier S.G. Pauwels, Research Associate at the Royal Belgian Institute for Natural Sciences, Brussels, Belgium.

  1. The Reptile Database (March, 2012)
  2. Firouz, E. (2005) The Complete Fauna of Iran. I.B. Tauris Publishers, London.
  3. Daut, E.F. and Andrews, R.M. (1993) The effect of pregnancy on thermoregulatory behavior of the viviparous lizard Chalcides ocellatus. Journal of Herpetology, 27: 6-13.
  4. Hellyer, P. and Aspinall, S. (2005) The Emirates: A Natural History. Trident Press Limited, London.
  5. Schleich, H.H., Kästle, W. and Kabisch, K. (1995) Amphibians and Reptiles of North Africa. Koeltz Scientific Books, Koenigstein, Germany.
  6. Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.
  7. UNEP-WCMC (August, 2009)
  8. Ananjeva, N.B., Orlov, N.L., Khalikov, R.G., Darevsky, I.S., Ryabov, S.A. and Barabanov, A.V. (2006) The Reptiles of Northern Eurasia. Pensoft Publishers, Sofia, Bulgaria.
  9. Attum, O., Covell, C. and Eason, P. (2004) The comparative diet of three Saharan sand dune skinks. African Journal of Herpetology, 53: 91-94.
  10. Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  11. Bartlett, R.D. and Bartlett, P. (1997) Lizard Care from A to Z. Barron’s Educational Series, New York.
  12. IUCN Red List (August, 2009)
  13. Council of Europe: Bern Convention (March, 2012)
  14. EU Habitats Directive (August, 2009)