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North American Species Of Skinks, Other Species Of Skinks

Skinks are smooth, shiny-scaled lizards in the family Scincidae, most of which occur in tropical and subtropical climates, although a few occur in the temperate zones. Most species of skinks occur in Africa, South and Southeast Asia, and Australia, with relatively few others occurring in Europe and North and South America.

Their body is roughly cylindrical with distinctive overlapping scales on their belly, and a head that ends in a pointed snout. Most skinks have well-developed legs and feet with five toes, but some species are legless slitherers, which can be distinguished from snakes by their shiny, uniform scales, their ear-holes, and the structure of their eyelids.

Skinks are quick, active animals, and most species are difficult to catch. They are also very squirmy and difficult to hold, commonly attempting to bite, and their tail often breaks off easily when they are handled. The broken tail will regenerate from the stump, but not to the original length and coloration.

About one-third of the more than 800 species of skinks are ovoviviparous, meaning the female retains the eggs inside of her body until they hatch, so that "live" young are born. The other species of skinks are viviparous-that is, they lay eggs.

Skinks are terrestrial animals, hunting during the day for insects and other small arthropods, while the larger species also hunt and eat small mammals and birds. During the night skinks typically hide under rocks or logs, in crevices of various kinds, or in a burrow that the animal digs in soft substrates. Most species occur in habitats that are reasonably moist and skinks are not found in arid environments.

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