Northern Coal Skink
Plestiodon anthracinus anthracinus

Common Name:

Northern Coal Skink

Scientific Name:

Plestiodon anthracinus anthracinus



Plestiodon is derived from the Greek words pleistos meaning "most" and odontos meaning "teeth". Plestiodon = Toothy Skinks.


anthracinus is derived from the Greek word anthraco meaning "coal", and the Latin suffix inus meaning "pertaining to", referring to the coal like color on the sides of this skink.


anthracinus is derived from the Greek word anthraco meaning "coal", and the Latin suffix inus meaning "pertaining to", referring to the coal like color on the sides of this skink.

Average Length:

5 - 7 in. (12.5 - 17.8 cm)

Virginia Record Length:

5.6 in. (14.3 cm)

Record length:

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: The known maximum snout to vent length (SVL) of this medium-sized skink is 70 mm (2.8 in.), and the maximum total length is 178 (7.0 in.). The maximum known SVL and total length in Virginia are 57 mm and 143 mm, respectively. Tail length was 53.6-62.1% of the total length. The smooth, glossy, body scales overlap each other. Around the midbody, scale rows number 23-26. Ten scales posterior to the vent, scale rows number 13-16 around the tail. The width of the subcaudal scales along the midline of the venter is greater than the length. There are supranasals, and a pair of supranasals separate the frontonasal from the rostral. Supralabials are 7/7, 6/6, or 6/7, and there are 1-2 enlarged postlabials. There are usually four, or uncommonly three, labial scales between the rostral and the first supralabial entering the eye. There are no postnasals. Infralabials are 6/6 or 5/6. There is a single mental and one postmental. The body has a mid-dorsal stripe that is quite broad and varies from tan to brown. On the edges of the 3rd and 4th scale rows, the dorsolateral stripes occur and extend until they border the tail *883,10760*.

SEXUAL DIMORPHISM: Both sexes are similar in color and pattern, but the sides of the male's head during mating season turn reddish or orangish. On average, females are larger than the males *10760*. Juveniles: They have the same color and pattern as adults, except the young have a blue tail *10760*.

CONFUSING SPECIES: The other three Plestiodons have 5 stripes, all other Plestiodons have 2 postmental scales, and the ground skink (Scincella lateralis) has dark dorsolateral stripes and a frontonasal scale touching the rostral scale *10760*.

REPRODUCTION: Mating is in May and 8-9 eggs are laid in late June and guarded by the female to hatching in 4 to 5 weeks *1021,1014*. Eggs may be laid as early as late April or as late as late June. They have a clutch size range of 4-11 eggs, according to many sources. Also, hatching has been found to occur as early as the end of May and as late as the end of July. Little is known about the incubation and hatching periods in Virginia *10760*.

BEHAVIOR: This species is diurnal *1021*. It is uncommon and secretive with widely disjunct populations *1021,1014*. Virginia collectors have noted finding this species in habitats such as a limestone ledge in deciduous montane forest, under a rock ledge in dried leaves, under flat sandstone slabs, under a rock on a grassy slope of a cutover hardwood forest, and beneath a rocks on a roadcut slope in a mixed hardwood-pine forest. Their prey items include insects and other invertebrates. In samples, this species has been found to eat earthworms, beetles, salticid spiders, a small wolf spider, a small grasshopper, and terrestrial spiders. There is no reported natural predator of this skink, in Virginia *10760*.

ORIGIN: This species is native *1021*.

References for Life History

  • 883 - Conant, R., 1975, A field guide to reptiles and amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, 429 pgs., Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, MA
  • 1014 - Martof, B.S., Palmer, W.M., Bailey, J.R., Harrison, III J.R., 1980, Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia, 264 pgs., UNC Press, Chapel Hill, NC
  • 1021 - Smith, H.M., 1946, Handbook of Lizards, 557 pgs., Comstock Publ. Co., Ithaca, NY
  • 10760 - Mitchell, J. C., 1994, The Reptiles of Virginia, 352 pgs., Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC
  • 11624 - Mitchell, J. C., 2001, Personal Communication, Expert review for GAP Analysis Project, Mitchell Ecological Research LLC


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Verified County/City Occurrence

Albemarle County
Alleghany County
Augusta County
Botetourt County
Danville City
Highland County
Montgomery County
Patrick County
Rockbridge County
Rockingham County
Verified in 10 Counties/Cities.


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Virginia is home to 9 native lizard species and two introduced species, the Mediterranean Gecko and the Italian Wall Lizard.


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