GREAT PLAINS SKINK
Plestiodon obsoletus
(Baird & Girard 1852)


plĕs-tē-ō-dŏn — ŏb-sō-lē-tŭs




An juvenile Great Plains Skink from Allen County, Kansas. © Travis W. Taggart.
An adult female Great Plains Skink and its recent hatchlings uncovered under a rock in Lincoln County, Kansas. Image © Kerstin Decker.
An adult from Trego County, Kansas. Image © Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH.
An adult from FHSU Campus, Ellis County. Image © Ryan Shofner.
A juvenile from Waubaunsee County. Image © Mike Pingleton.
A juvenile from Waubaunsee County. Image © Mike Pingleton.

Description:
The Great Plains Skink is the largest skink in the eastern or central US. Unlike other skinks, the scales on the sides of this species are not arranged in parallel rows, but rather in oblique (diagonal) rows.
Length in Kansas up to 13 inches. Unlike other Kansas skinks, the Great Plains Skink is usually not striped (however, rarely, the black flecks on the back may form diffuse-edged stripes). They are strong, stocky, muscular lizards. The entire body is covered by tan to brown scales that are variably edged with dark brown to black, creating a mottled pattern. During the spring the males may have orange patches on the sides of their head, and their heads may be slightly swollen. Juveniles are black with a bright blue tail and white spots on the head.
Adults normally 165-230 mm (6½-9 inches) in TL; largest specimen from Kansas: female (KU 189186) from Cheyenne County with SVL of 133 mm and TL of 350 mm (13¼ inches) collected by Brad Anderson and John Fraser on 2 May 1981; greatest weight from Kansas: 49.2 grams (1 Ys ounces) from Jefferson County collected by Robert R. Fleet and Russell J. Hall on 28 April 1968; maximum length throughout range: 13¼ inches (Conant and Collins, 1998).

Distribution:
Probably statewide, although infrequently encountered in the upper Smoky-Hill River drainage.
Preferring to hide a majority of the time, Great Plains Skinks use burrows or hide under rocks. In more arid areas, they can be found near permanent or semi-permanent bodies of water.

(, Museum Voucher) (, Observation) (, Literature Record)
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  • Occurrence Summary:  
  • 1,905 Total Records 
  • 1,681 Museum Vouchers 
  • 224 Other Observations 
Some county occurrences indicated below may be too imprecise to map above.
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences):
Allen (56); Anderson (119); Atchison (10); Barber (13); Barton (4); Bourbon (70); Butler (14); Chase (63); Chautauqua (8); Cherokee (6); Cheyenne (5); Clark (14); Clay (6); Cloud (16); Coffey (5); Comanche (3); Cowley (92); Crawford (39); Dickinson (12); Doniphan (4); Douglas (268); Elk (13); Ellis (13); Ellsworth (38); Finney (38); Ford (2); Franklin (35); Geary (35); Grant (8); Gray (3); Greenwood (36); Hamilton (5); Harper (1); Harvey (1); Haskell (1); Hodgeman (3); Jackson (5); Jefferson (54); Jewell (10); Johnson (21); Kearney (5); Kiowa (16); Labette (8); Leavenworth (32); Lincoln (13); Linn (16); Logan (1); Lyon (41); Marion (26); Marshall (30); McPherson (4); Meade (21); Miami (1); Mitchell (6); Montgomery (18); Morris (10); Morton (7); Neosho (12); Ness (2); Osage (29); Osborne (2); Ottawa (12); Pottawatomie (28); Pratt (2); Rawlins (1); Reno (1); Republic (1); Rice (1); Riley (127); Rush (1); Russell (126); Saline (4); Sedgwick (5); Seward (5); Shawnee (22); Sheridan (1); Smith (1); Stanton (5); Stevens (1); Sumner (3); Trego (2); Unknown (15); Wabaunsee (54); Washington (13); Wichita (1); Wilson (12); Woodson (9);

Natural History:
They inhabit grassland and woodland edge, where they stay close to their burrows while hunting. Due to their larger size, they have more prey options than most other skinks. They will feed on any organism they can catch and swallow. Hartman (1906) reported on a juvenile that had consumed a fly, a spider, two leaf-hoppers, and a cricket. Burt and Hoyle (1935) reported on an adult Great Plains Skink (Plestiodon obsoletus) collected by Charles E. Burt, on 14 May 1933 in Morris County, that had consumed an adult Prairie Skink (Plestiodon septentrionalis).
Females lay eggs in June-July and attend them until after they hatch. Hatchlings begin to emerge in late July or early August.
They are harmless, but capable of delivering a pinching bite.

Occurrence Activity:
White dates indicate there is at least a single recorded occurrence on that date. The darker blue a date is, the greater the relative number of observations for that date.
Remarks:
First reported in Kansas by Hallowell (1856). Later, Cragin (1881) listed a specimen from Manhattan. The earliest existing specimen is from 1892 (KU 661). Burt (1929) considered it the second most widely distributed lizard (after the Prairie Racerunner) in Kansas.

Bibliography:
1857 Hallowell, Edward. Notice of a collection of reptiles from Kansas and Nebraska presented to the Academy of Natural Sciences, by Doctor Hammond, U. S. A. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia 8():238-253
1879 Bocourt, M. F. Etudes sur les reptiles, p. i-xiv, 1-1012. In Recherches Zoologiques pour servir a l'Histoire de Ia Faune de l'Amérique Centrale et du Mexique. Mission Scientifique au Mexique et dans l'Amérique Centrale, Recherches zoologiques. Part 2, sect. 1; In A Imprimerie Impériale, Paris [3, Pt. 6]. A Imprimerie Impériale, Paris, France.. 360–440pp.
1882 Yarrow, Henry C. Check list of North American Reptilia and Batrachia with catalogue of specimens in U. S. National Museum. Bulletin of the United States National Museum (24):1-249
1884 Garman, Samuel. The North American reptiles and batrachians. Bulletin of the Essex Institute 16():1-46
1900 Cope, Edward D. The crocodilians, lizards and snakes of North America. Pages 153-1270 in Report of the U. S. National Museum for the Year Ending June 30, 1898 , Washington, D. C. pp.
1906 Hartman, Frank A. Food habits of Kansas lizards and batrachians. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 20():225-229
1907 Ditmars, Raymond L. The Reptile Book; A comprehensive, Popularised Work on the Structure and Habits of the Turtles, Tortoises, Crocodilians, Lizards and Snakes which Inhabit the United States and Northern Mexico. Doubleday, Pae, and Company, New York. 472pp.
1920 Taylor, Edward H. The Lizards of Kansas with Notes on Habits. Thesis. University of Kansas, Lawrence. 117pp.
1928 Burt, Charles E. Insect food of Kansas lizards with notes on feeding habits. Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 1(3):50-68
1928 Burt, Charles E. Some distributional and ecological records of Kansas reptiles. Transactions of the Academy of Science St. Louis 26():186-208
1929 Burt, Charles E. The synonymy, variation, and distribution of the Sonoran Skink, Eumeces obsoletus (Baird and Girard). Occasional Papers of the Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan (201):18
1929 Burt, Charles E. and May Danheim Burt. A collection of amphibians and reptiles from the Mississippi valley, with field observations. American Museum Novitates (381):1-14
1929 Taylor, Edward H. List of reptiles and batrachians of Morton County, Kansas, reporting species new to the state fauna. University of Kansas Science Bulletin 19(6):63-65
1931 Hoover, F. S. The Myology of Eumeces obsoletus. Thesis. University of Kansas, Lawrence. 77pp.
1933 Stejneger, Leonhard and Thomas Barbour. A Checklist of North American Amphibians and Reptiles. 3rd Edition. Harvard University Press, Cambridge,Massachusetts. pp.
1934 Brennan, Lawrence A. A check list of the amphibians and reptiles of Ellis County, Kansas. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 37():189-191
1934 Burt, Charles E. and W. L. Hoyle. Additional records of the reptiles of the central prairie region of the United States. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 37():193-216
1935 Brennan, Lawrence A. Notes on the Distribution of Amphibia and Reptilia of Ellis County, Kansas. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 114pp.
1935 Burt, Charles E. Further records of the ecology and distribution of amphibians and reptiles in the middle west. American Midland Naturalist 16(3):311-366
1935 Burt, Charles E. and William L. Hoyle. Additional records of the reptiles of the central prairie region of the United States Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 37():193-216
1935 Taylor, Edward H. A taxonomic study of the cosmopolitan scincoid lizards of the genus Eumeces, with an account of the distribution and relationships of its species. University of Kansas Science Bulletin 23(1):1-643
1937 Brennan, Lawrence A. A study of the habitat of reptiles and amphibians of Ellis County, Kansas. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 40():341-347
1941 Branson, F. and C. Deyoe A study of snakes and lizards of Ellis County. Unpublished data, Fort Hays State University. pp.
1944 Marr, John C. Notes on amphibians and reptiles from the central United States. American Midland Naturalist 32(2):478-490
1953 Schmidt, Karl P. A Check List of North American Amphibians and Reptiles. 6th Edition. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois. 280pp.
1955 Fitch, Henry S. Habits and adaptations of the Great Plains skink (Eumeces obsoletus). Ecological Monographs 25(1):59-83
1956 Loomis, Richard B. The chigger mites of Kansas (Acarina, Trombiculidae). University of Kansas Science Bulletin 37():1195-1443
1962 Gish, Charles D. The Herpetofauna of Ellis County, Kansas. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 34pp.
1976 Caldwell, Janalee P. and Gregory. Glass. Vertebrates of the Woodson County State Fishing Lake and Game Management Area. Pages 62-76 in Preliminary inventory of the biota of Woodson County State Fishing Lake and Game Management Area. Report No. 5. State Biological Survey of Kansas, Lawrence. pp.
1976 Hall, Russell J. Eumeces obsoletus. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles (186):1-3
1977 Knight, James L. and Joseph T. Collins. The amphibians and reptiles of Cheyenne County, Kansas, Report Number 15. Kansas Biological Survey, Lawrence. 19pp.
1978 Fitch, Henry S. and E. Raymond Hall. A 20year record of succession on reseeded fields of tallgrass prairie on the Rockefeller Experimental Tract. University of Kansas Museum of Natural History Special Publication (4):1-15
1980 Clarke, Robert F. Herptiles and fishes of the western Arkansas River in Kansas. United States Army Corps of Engineers, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 55pp.
1982 Fitch, Henry S. Resources of a snake community in prairie-woodland habitat of northeastern Kansas. Pages 83-97 in Herpetological communities: A symposium of the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles and the Herpetologists League, August 1977.  Wildlife Research Reports 12. 239 pp. U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D. C. pp.
1987 Olson, R. Earl, Bertram Marx, and Robert Rome. Descriptive dentition morphology of lizards of middle and north America II: Iguanidae Bulletin of the Maryland Herpetological Society 23(1):12-34
1989 Collins, Joseph T. New records of amphibians and reptiles in Kansas for 1988. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (75):15-18
1991 Collins, Joseph T. and Suzanne L. Collins. Reptiles and Amphibians of the Cimarron National Grasslands, Morton County, Kansas. U. S. Forest Service, Elkhart, Kansas. 60pp.
1991 Fitch, Henry S. Reptiles and amphibians of the Kansas ecological reserves. Pages 71-74 in Multidisciplinary Guidebook 4. Kansas Academy of Science, Lawrence. pp.
1992 Taggart, Travis W. Eumeces obsoletus. Geographic distribution. Herpetological Review 23():89
1992 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the KHS annual field trip to Sheridan County State Lake. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (90):3
1996 Miller, Larry L. Many amphibian and reptile species identified during KHS 1996 fall field trip to Wabaunsee County. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (106):2-3
1996 Miller, Larry L. Third graders conduct amphibian and reptile field study. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (106):15
2000 Griffith, Hugh, Andre Ngo and Robert W. Murphy A cladistic evaluation of the cosmopolitan genus Eumeces Weigmann (Reptilia, Squamata, Scincidae) Russian Journal of Herpetology 7(1):1-16
2000 Taggart, Travis W. Biogeographic analysis of the reptiles (Squamata) in Ellis County, Kansas. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (121):7-16
2000 Taggart, Travis W. KHS spring field trip sets record for attendance. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (120):5-5
2001 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the KHS spring field trip west. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (125):10
2001 Taggart, Travis W. The KHS 2001 spring field trip: A rainy rendezvous. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (124):12-14
2002 Miller, Larry L. Shawnee County herp count. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (4):15
2002 Riedle, J. Daren and A. Hynek. Amphibian and reptile inventory of the Kansas Army Ammunition Plant, Labette County, Kansas. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (2):18-20
2002 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the spring 2002 KHS field trip. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (3):6-7
2003 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the KHS 2003 fall field trip. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (8):14-15
2004 Schmitz, Andreas, Patrick Mausfeld, and Dirk Embert Molecular studies on the genus Eumeces Weigmann, 1834: Phylogenetic relationships and taxonomic implications Hamadryad 28(1-2):73-89
2005 Smith, Hobart M. Plestiodon: A replacement name for most members of the genus Eumeces in North America Journal of Kansas Herpetology (14):15-16
2006 Taggart, Travis W. Addendum report to biological inventory of the sandsage prairie near Holcomb, Kansas. Sunflower Electric Cooperative, Hays, Kansas. 31pp.
2006 Taggart, Travis W. Distribution and status of Kansas herpetofauna in need of information. State Wildlife Grant T7. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt. vii + 106pp.
2007 Taggart, Travis W. A biological inventory of the Sunflower Electric Site near Holcomb, Kansas. Journal of Kansas Herpetology 23():11-16
2008 Mayers, Zachary. Geographic distribution. Plestiodon obsoletus (Great Plains Skink). Journal of Kansas Herpetology (26):6
2008 Taggart, Travis W. KHS 2008 spring field trip. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (25):2-3
2010 Miller, Larry L. 2010 Investigation of the Checkered Garter Snake in Kansas with notes on other Amphibians, Reptiles, and Turtles encountered. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt, Kansas. 31pp.
2012 Hamilton, Bryan Tyler, Rachel Hart , and Jack W. Sites Jr. Feeding Ecology of the Milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum, Colubridae) in the Western United States. Journal of Herpetology 46(4):515-522
2012 Rohweder, Megan R. Spatial conservation prioritization of Kansas for terrestrial vertebrates. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 151pp.
2016 Pittman, Galen L., Henry S. Fitch, and W. Dean Kettle Vertebrate animals on the Fitch Natural History Reservation (1948-2002) Kansas Biological Survey Report Number 188, Lawrence. 48pp.
Account Last Updated:
8/4/2019 10:38:49 PM


Travis W. Taggart © 2020 — Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Fort Hays State University