This little prairie skink was a little too slow getting under cover as I walked past him in the prairie yesterday. As a result, he suffered the indignity of being transported back to our field headquarters where he was placed in a cardboard box for a short period while I photographed him. (I let him go again as soon as I got a couple good shots.)
From the looks of things, it wasn’t the first time he’d been a little slow. He was missing his tail – a sign that he’d run into trouble recently. (Skinks can abandon their tail to avoid predation, and then grow another one. A nifty little trick!)
A prairie skink. The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.
From this angle you can really see the orange coloring of the jaw. Male skinks get this coloration during the breeding season. You can also see the external ear – one of the characteristics that helps distinguish lizards from snakes (legs, of course, are another pretty good clue, though not all lizards have them.)