Rüppell’s snake-eyed skink

With a captivating blend of agility, striking colors, and a knack for conquering both land and trees

Aviad Bar

A lesser-known yet fascinating reptile that inhabits the arid landscapes of the Middle East. This skink is found across a range of countries, including Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, and Jordan, and it may also be present in Syria. Its preference for dry and rocky environments, often with a scattering of leaf litter and underbrush, provides it with ample opportunities for concealment and hunting.

Growing up to 15 centimeters (5.9 inches) in total length, Rüppell’s snake-eyed skink has a robust and thick tail that may be twice the length of its body. This tail is not only a storage site for fats but can also serve as a defensive tool, as the skink can drop it to distract predators, a process known as autotomy. Although not completely perfect, the regeneration of its tail allows the skink to recover from such encounters.

As a diurnal species, this skink is active during the day when it can be seen basking in the sun to regulate its body temperature. These basking periods are essential for their metabolism and overall activity levels, including hunting for prey. The diet of Rüppell’s snake-eyed skink mainly includes small insects and mollusks, which it forages for among the rocks and leaves.

As its name suggests, one of the most distinctive features of Rüppell’s snake-eyed skink is its eyes, which lack movable eyelids and are covered by a transparent scale, similar to those of snakes. This adaptation protects their vision from the dusty, sandy conditions of their habitat while allowing them to maintain keen eyesight.

Their limbs are equipped with nimble fingers and sharp claws, which facilitate expert climbing abilities and grip, crucial for maneuvering through their rocky habitat. The skink’s agility and quick reflexes aid in capturing prey and evading predators. These adaptations, along with its cryptic coloring, enable Rüppell’s snake-eyed skink to thrive in a challenging ecosystem.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Egypt
2006
Israel
2006
Jordan
2006
Lebanon
2006
Presence Uncertain, Origin Uncertain
Syria
2006
Presence Uncertain, Origin Uncertain

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No