Gilbert’s Skink (Eumeces gilberti) is a heavy-bodied medium-sized lizard found in the south-western United States. It grows to about 2.75 to 4.75 inches (7 to 12 cm) total length.
Eumeces gilberti was first described by Van Denburgh in 1896. It was named in honor of Van Denburgh’s teacher, Dr. Charles H. Gilbert (1859 – 1928), who at the time was a professor of zoology at Stanford University.
There are five subspecies of Eumeces gilberti:
- Arizona Skink (E.g. arizonensis); Lowe and Shannon, 1954
- Greater Brown Skink (E.g. gilberti); Van Denburgh, 1896
- Northern Brown Skink (E.g. placerensis); Rodgers, 1944
- Variegated Skink (E.g. cancellosus); Rodgers and Fitch, 1947
- Western Red-tailed Skink (E.g. rubricaudatus); Taylor, 1935
(E.g. placerensis got its name from Placer County, California, where it occurs.)
Together with the Western Skink (E. skiltonianus), the San Lucan Skink (E. lagunensis), and the Four-lined Asiatic Skink (E. quadrilineatus), the Western Skink belongs to the so-called “skiltonianus group”. The exact taxonomy within this group is being questioned and may need revision following DNA analysis research.
Range and Habitat
Gilbert’s Skink occurs mainly in California. It is found in the northern San Joaquin Valley, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada from Butte County southward, and along the inner flanks of the Coast Ranges from San Francisco Bay to the Mexican border and into northern Baja California. It is also found in the mountains of southern California, and at scattered mountain localities in the eastern desert from Mono County to San Bernadino County. Isolated populations also occur in western Arizona as well as in southern Nevada.
The habitat of the Gilbert’s Skink ranges from sea level to elevations of about 7300 ft (2200 m). Found in a wide variety of habitats, this lizard is more common in early successional stages or open areas within habitats in which it occurs, which ranges from grassland to open chaparral or open pine forests. Heavy brush and densely forested areas are generally avoided.
Gilbert’s Skink is a heavy-bodied lizard with small legs. Adults are uniformly colored in green, grey, olive or brown. Juveniles have light stripes on the sides and the back enclosing a broad black or brown stripe. This dark stripe stops near base of a waxy-pink tail. The striping fades with growth and maturation.
This robust skink is seldom seen in the open. It forages through leaf litter and dense vegetation, occasionally digging through loose soil. It is a good burrower and often constructs its own shelter by burrowing under surface objects such as rocks or rotting logs. Females construct nest chambers in loose moist soil several centimeters deep, especially under flat stones.
The reproductive season for this species varies geographically and from year to year depending on local conditions. Little is known about the timing of reproduction, but it is probably similar to the Western Skink. Clutch size varies from 3 to 9 eggs.