Ground Skink Scincella lateralis

Adult from southern Mississippi
Adult from Brown County

Identification: This tiny lizard is more often heard than seen. Ground skinks live in and amongst the leaf litter and debris on the forest floor and can be difficult to get a good look at, as they quickly and noisily burrow into the leaves. Like Indiana’s larger skinks, these small lizards have glossy-smooth scales. Ground skinks are brown with lighter grayish sides and tail and two thin, dark lateral stripes. Importantly, adult ground skinks rarely exceed 5 in (12 cm) in length, making this Indiana’s smallest lizard.

Similar Species: Ground skinks are easily separated from Indiana’s other skink species by their small size. The largest ground skinks are the size of juvenile five-lined skinks and broad-headed skinks, which have bright blue tails and are more robust even as juveniles.

Distribution: Ground skinks are most abundant in the oak-hickory forests of south-central Indiana. Though they dwell largely in leaf litter on the forest floor, they are abundant in and around forest openings, forest edges, and along sunny trails.

Forest Opening in Brown County
Forest Opening in Brown County

Distribution Map
Distribution map of Ground Skink (Scincella lateralis)
Photographs