When the question comes about reptiles, we mostly don’t know the answer only because they are the most neglected one. People care about birds, people care about mammals but people don’t care about reptiles except the fact that people fear snakes. And among reptiles the most neglected ones will be the skinks. Leave aside the common people, even the experts don’t have much information about them.
Of these greatly neglected, less studied and very secretive animals, two species are found at my home town Tamluk, Purba Medinipur, West Bengal. The first one is the most common skink of India, Brahminy Skink or Keeled Grass Skink (Mabuya carinata). It has a robust bronze brown body with 2 lateral yellow stripes and a chocolate brown band on top. The legs are well developed. It grows upto a length of 290mm of which 170 mm is tail.
This skink is equally at home in rural as well as urban environment. It frequently enters houses in search of prey. It mainly feeds upon crickets, caterpillars, beetles, earth worms etc. Though skinks are mainly ground dwelling creature, it is a very good climber also. I have seen it climb 6’-8’ vertical cemented wall with ease. And it is so good at living in urban space that i found 2 specimens in our 2nd floor rooftop garden.
The second one is the Snake Skink or Supple Skink (Lygosoma punctatus). Very few have seen it partly because of its small size and partly because of its semi-fossorial living. Semi- fossorial means it spends its time both over and under the surface. For its underground living habit several changes have occurred on its body. The body is elongated and have a snake like appearance. Legs are very small compared to the body. This gives us a hint how snakes have lost their legs. And the lower eyelid has a transparent window. This enables it to see even when the eyelids are closed which is often the case in underground movements, to protect the eye from accidental scratching.
Other than these, its general coloration is brown above and yellowish white below. It can reach a length of 15cm of which half is its tail. Tail is rather thick and gradually tapers to a point. As it spends most of time under leaf litter, it is hard to see. One interesting fact is that, the colour of the tail of juvenile Supple Skink is bright red. It looses colour as it ages.