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Gilbert's Skink (Plestiodon gilberti) is a heavy-bodied medium-sized lizard of the family of skinks living in the south-western United Statesmarker. It grows to about 7 to 12 cm (2.75 to 4.75 inches) total length.

Taxonomy

Plestiodon 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 Universitymarker.

There are five subspecies of Plestiodon gilberti:
  • Arizona Skink (P. g. arizonensis); Lowe and Shannon, 1954
  • Greater Brown Skink (P. g. gilberti); Van Denburgh, 1896
  • Northern Brown Skink (P. g. placerensis); Rodgers, 1944
  • Variegated Skink (P. g. cancellosus); Rodgers and Fitch, 1947
  • Western Red-tailed Skink (P. g. rubricaudatus); Taylor, 1935


(P.g. placerensis got its name from Placer County, Californiamarker, where it occurs.)

Together with the Western Skink (E. skiltonianus), the San Lucan Skink (E. lagunensis), and the Four-lined Asiatic Skink (P. 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 Californiamarker. It is found in the northern San Joaquin Valleymarker, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada from Butte Countymarker southward, and along the inner flanks of the Coast Ranges from San Francisco Baymarker to the Mexican border and into northern Baja Californiamarker. It is also found in the mountains of southern California, and at scattered mountain localities in the eastern desert from Mono Countymarker to San Bernardino Countymarker. Isolated populations also occur in western Arizonamarker as well as in southern Nevadamarker.

Gilbert's Skink occurs in habitat ranging from sea level to elevations of about 2200 m (7300 ft). Found in a wide variety of habitats, this lizard is commonest 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.

Description

Close-up of head.


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.

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