Image © Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH.
REPTILIA (Reptiles) SQUAMATA (PART) (Other Lizards) SCINCIDAE (Skinks)

Coal Skink
Plestiodon anthracinus (Baird 1849)
plĕs-tē-ō-dŏn — ăn-thră-sī-nŭs


Conservation Status:

State: None

Federal: None
NatureServe State: S3 - Vulnerable
NatureServe National: N5 - Secure
NatureServe Global: G5 - Secure
CITES: None
Diagnosis:
The Coal Skink is characterized by four limbs, an ear opening on each side of the head, smooth, flat, shiny scales on its body, a broad, dark brown, or black stripe on each side of the body from the eye onto the tail bordered by a thin light stripe, and no light stripes on the head. The back, head, limbs, and tail are medium olive-brown to brown. The belly is gray. In males the chin and jaws are orange-red during the breeding season.
Adults normally 125-178 mm (5-7 inches) in total length. The largest specimen from Kansas is a female (KU 88527) from Miami County with a snout-vent length of 59 mm and a total length of 176 mm (7 inches) collected by Jack E. Joy in May 1949. This is the maximum length throughout the range (Powell et al., 2016).

Distribution:
The habitat requirement of this species in Kansas are largely unknown. It has been observed in heavily wooded regions of eastern Kansas, generally east of the Flint Hills, and south of the Kansas River.Fleharty and Ittner (1967) reported three specimens (FHSM 2094, 2141-42) collected on 17 and 20 April 1965 under rocks in the grassy floodplain along the Smoky Hill River, 2 mi. W and 9 mi. S of Hays, Ellis County. These specimens have been examined and possess single undivided (entire) postmental scales (a character of the Coal Skink generally recognized to differentiate it from the Prairie Skink [Plestiodon septentrionalis]). The specimens have been reassigned as Prairie Skinks.
Taylor (1935) notes "In eastern Kansas its distribution seems quite erratic."
Smith (1950, 1956) reported this species from west of Carolton [sic?] in Dickinson County. See the Remarks for a discussion of this specimen.
(,   Museum Voucher) (,   Observation) (,   Literature Record) (,   iNat Record), (  Fossil)
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Full range depicted by light shaded red area. Export Google Earth (.kml)
  • Occurrence Summary:  
  • 103
    Records 
  • 89
    Museum Vouchers 
  • 14
    Other Observations 
Some county occurrences indicated below may be too imprecise to map above.
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences):
Anderson (2); Bourbon (1); Chautauqua (1); Cherokee (69); Crawford (1); Douglas (6); Franklin (4); Johnson (2); Linn (1); Miami (10); Montgomery (3); Neosho (1); Unknown (2);

Fossil History:
Not known from Kansas.

Natural History:
Coal Skinks are seldom seen in Kansas and their habits are not well understood. They are most often encountered while foraging among fallen leaves or under cover adjacent to woodland streams. They do not climb while being pursued but have been noted to enter the water (Taylor 1935) to avoid capture.
Based on the few reports of Kansas specimens, this secretive lizard inhabits leaf-littered rocky slopes of forests, often near water. The Coal Skink is active only during the day, but little is known of its habits. It retreats beneath the ground during the winter, presumably in crevices or burrows of other animals.
Taylor (1935) found specimens under rocks on rocky bluffs along Pottawatomie Creek in Anderson County. In Cherokee County, he discovered them near a small spring which had a flowing outlet, filled with water cress. In his search for salamanders, among the roots of the water cress, a specimen was found, apparently having taken refuge among the plants. He captured of 15 specimens of varying sizes among a scattered pile of small rocks in a nearby pasture and another in woods under a log.
Fleharty and Johnson (1975) found an example of this lizard on a south-facing hillside beneath a sandstone rock on 20 April in Chautauqua County. Rush and Fleharty (1981) collected another speci men beneath debris on a hillside in Neosho County on 26 April at an air temperature of 55°F. Collins (1982) observed seven of these lizards active from 10 April to 22 May in Cherokee County, six on rocky, leaf-covered slopes and one beneath a log.
Gloyd (1928) recorded a female from Franklin County which laid eight eggs between 21 and 23 June. Six of the eggs hatched between 24 and 25 July, an incubation period slightly over one month. Collins (1975) reported a clutch of eleven eggs laid on 19 May from a Coal Skink collected in Douglas County on 14 April and observed that the female protected the eggs, when they were disturbed, by curling on top of them. Irwin (1982) recorded a clutch of ten eggs laid in late May from a Coal Skink collected in Cherokee County on 1 May; a second specimen collected on 17 April from the same county contained nine eggs.
According to Gloyd (1928), the Coal Skink feeds on small insects. Taylor (1935) examined the stomach contents of a series from Cherokee County and found a variety of small invertebrate. Predators of the Coal Skink include small mammals, snakes, and larger lizards (Collins, 1993).

Occurrence Activity:
Number of Unique Obervations (=days): 34; Range: 02 Mar to 03 Oct
Remarks:
First reported from Kansas by Householder (1916) (as Eumeces pluvialis), however his specimen (verified at the time by United States National Museum herpetologist Dr. Leonard Stejneger) was collected in Dickinson County and significantly outside the range/habitat of this species as currently understood. Taylor (1920) adds to this story by stating that the Dickinson County specimen is in the collection at the University of Kansas, and that it was collected by John Sterling.
Burt (1928) mentions that he had seventeen specimens from Kansas on hand for study. He adds that both Leonard Stejneger and Doris M. Cochran compared to the co-types of "Eumeces pluvialis" and "Eumeces anthracinus" to the specimen in question, and it possessed had long toes and delicate, slender limbs characteristic of the former. The specimen is likely Plestiodon septentrionalis. Burt (op cit.) felt that these characters were too variable to be of use, and discussed all Kansas specimens as E. anthracinus. He also gave the catalog number of the specimen (KU 744) and reported on a series of specimens collected by Howard K. Gloyd in Franklin County and deposited in the museum at Ottawa University (since lost) and another specimen (Ottawa University 201) also in the museum at Ottawa University (also lost). University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute (KU 744; collected April 1914 by Jack Sterling at Carlton, Dickinson County) is currently cataloged as Plestiodon septentrionalis.
Gloyd (1932) published on several of the specimens mentioned in Burt (1928) based specimens he procured around Pigeon Lake in south-central Miami County on 15 May 1926, 19 March 1927, 25 March 1928, 31 August 1928, and 6 April 1929.
The earliest existing specimen (KU 742) was collected in Anderson County by Edward H. Taylor in August of 1909. However, Taylor (1920) makes no mention of it. 
The earliest existing specimen from Kansas is (University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute [KU 744]) collected at Ca
This species is secretive, and thus a seldom-seen and poorly understood lizard. The few records available prevent an accurate description of its habitat, and the possibility can't be ruled out that this species actually consists of scattered relictual and localized populations in the state. More survey work is needed so that baseline data exists for future comparisons.


Bibliography:
1916 Householder, Victor H. The Lizards and Turtles of Kansas with Notes on Their Distribution and Habitat. Thesis. University of Kansas, Lawrence. 100pp.
1920 Taylor, Edward H. The Lizards of Kansas with Notes on Habits. Thesis. University of Kansas, Lawrence. 117pp.
Though Dr. Taylor's thesis lists 1916 as the publication date (as does version that the KHS published in 1993). His degree was not awarded until 1920, which is the official publication date.
1928 Burt, Charles E. A key to the species of lizards definitely reported from Kansas. Privately printed, Enterprise Press, Bristow, Nebraska. pp.
Essentially a separate from the writer's "Lizards of. Kansas" which was in-press in the Transactions of the Academy of Science of St. Louis (Burt 1928. 26(1):1-81). Includes a glossary and a note on the variation in Sceloporus undulatus thayerii (= Sceloporus consobrinus).
1928 Burt, Charles E. The lizards of Kansas. Transactions of the Academy of Science St. Louis 26(1):1-81
1932 Gloyd, Howard K. The herpetological fauna of the Pigeon Lake Region, Miami County, Kansas. Papers of the Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan 15():389-408
First record of Notophthalmus viridescens from Kansas. Second record (after the type locality) of Pseudacris crucifer from Kansas.
1933 Stejneger, Leonhard and Thomas Barbour. A Checklist of North American Amphibians and Reptiles. 3rd Edition. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. pp.
Reference to Kansas is the listed range of several species.
1933 Burt, Charles E. Some distributional and ecological records of Kansas reptiles. Transactions of the Academy of Science St. Louis 26():186-208
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
1936 Brumwell, Malcolm J. Distributional records of the reptilia and amphibians of Kansas. Privately printed, . 22pp.
County dot maps of the Kansas herpetofauna. This work has been attributed to have been written around 1933, but that may be in error. 
Hypsiglena jani was not known from Kansas until Claude W. Hibbard collected three specimens on the Stevenson Ranch in north-central Clark County (above Clark State Lake) during June 1936 (Hibbard, 1937). Brumwell plotted this locality, which leads me to believe that the 1936 would have been the earliest date this manuscript could have been written.
1946 Smith, Hobart M. The systematic status of Eumeces pluvialis Cope, a noteworthy records of other amphibians and reptiles from Kansas and Oklahoma. University of Kansas Publications Museum of Natural History 1(2):85-89
Discussion of an unnamed western from of Plestiodon anthracinus; The discovery of Eurycea lucifua in Cherokee County, Kansas, and mention of Eurycea longicauda.; The distribution of Psuedacris crucifer in Kansas and discovery of a specimen in NE Oklahoma.
1950 Smith, Hobart M. Handbook of Amphibians and Reptiles of Kansas. University of Kansas, Museum of Natural History, Miscellaneous Publication (2):336
The first modern herpetology of Kansas. Includes locality dot maps within individual species accounts. Reports 96 species from Kansas (table and text say 97 on p. 10) and 13 "probable but unverified" species and subspecies.
1952 Smith, Philip W. and Hobart M. Smith. Geographic variation in the lizard Eumeces anthracinus. University of Kansas Science Bulletin 34(11):679-694
1953 Schmidt, Karl P. A Check List of North American Amphibians and Reptiles. 6th Edition. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois. 280pp.
Schmidt's first edition of his standardized checklist to North American amphibians and reptiles. Includes several specific references to Kansas in the range descriptions.
1956 Smith, Hobart M. Handbook of Amphibians and Reptiles of Kansas. Second edition. University of Kansas Museum of Natural History Miscellaneous Publication (9):1-356
Hobart M. Smith's updated second edition of his first (1950) modern herpetology of Kansas. Includes locality dot maps within individual species accounts. Reports 96 species from Kansas (table says 97 on p. 10; text says 98 on p. 10) and 11 "probable but unverified" species and subspecies. The second edition has updated taxonomy, added Plestiodon laticeps, and removed Eurycea tynerensis.
1956 Loomis, Richard B. The chigger mites of Kansas (Acarina, Trombiculidae). University of Kansas Science Bulletin 37():1195-1443
Examined 2,628 Kansas reptiles of 48 species consisting of 27 turtles of 4 species, 1,736 lizards of 12 species and 892 snakes of 32 species for chiggers. Eleven species of chiggers were recovered from reptiles.
For amphibians, 1188 individuals of 21 species were examined. Five species of chigger mite were recovered from amphibians.
1962 Burrage, Bryan L. A new Kansas locality record for Eumeces anthracinus pluvialis Cope. Herpetologica 18():210-211
1965 Clarke, Robert F. Lizards in Kansas. Kansas School Naturalist 11(4):1-16
1967 Fleharty, Eugene D. and Dwight R. Ittner. Additional locality records for some Kansas herptiles. Southwestern Naturalist 12(2):199-200
1974 Collins, Joseph T. Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas University of Kansas Museum of Natural History Public Education Series (1):283 pp
Joseph T. Collins first Kansas herpetology. <Need to get species total and principal differences with previous 'version' (= Smith 1956)>
1974 Fleharty, Eugene D. and Jerry D. Johnson. Distributional records of herptiles from the Chautauqua Hills of southeastern Kansas. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 77(1):65-67
1976 Rundquist, Eric M. Field checklist (of) amphibians and reptiles of Kansas. Kansas Herpetological Society, Lawrence. pp.
1977 Perry, Janice. Kansas herps needed. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (18):2-3
List of Kansas amphibians and reptiles desired for the SSAR/HL meeting to be held 7-13 August 1977.
1982 Collins, Joseph T. Report to the Kansas Fish and Game Commission on the status of three amphibians in southeastern Kansas. Kansas Fish and Game Commission, Pratt. 57pp.
1982 Collins, Joseph T. Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas. 2nd edition. University of Kansas Museum of Natural History Public Education Series (8):
Joseph T. Collins second Kansas herpetology. <Need to get species total and principal differences with previous 'version' (= Collins 1974)>
1982 Irwin, Kelly J. Life history notes: Eumeces anthracinus pluvialis. Herpetological Review 13():125-126
1983 Collins, Joseph T. New records of fishes, amphibians, and reptiles in Kansas for 1982 . Technical Publication of the State Biological Survey of Kansas 13():9-21
1984 Brown, Kenneth L. Pomona: A plains village variant in eastern Kansas and western Missouri. Dissertation. University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas. 519pp.
1984 Secor, Stephen M. and Charles C. Carpenter. Distribution maps of Oklahoma reptiles. Oklahoma Herpetological Society Special Publication (3):1-57
1990 Collins, Joseph T. Maximum size records for Kansas amphibians and reptiles. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (81):13-17
1991 Conant, Roger and Joseph T. Collins. Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. 3rd ed. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. pp.
1991 Fitch, Henry S. Reptiles and amphibians of the Kansas ecological reserves. Pages 71-74 in Ecology and Hydrology of Kansas Ecological Reserves and the Baker Wetlands. Multidisciplinary Guidebook 4. Kansas Academy of Science, Lawrence, Kansas. pp.
1993 Collins, Joseph T. and Suzanne L. Collins. Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas. Third Edition. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Lawrence. 397pp.
Joseph T. Collins third Kansas herpetology. <Need to get species total and principal differences with previous 'version' (= Collins 1982)>
1994 Rundquist, Eric M. Results of the sixth annual KHS herp counts held 1 April-31 May 1994. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (97):5-14
See, 1994 Rundquist, Eric M. Additions and corrections [to the results of the sixth annual KHS herp counts held 1 April-31 May 1994]. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (98):4.
1996 Rundquist, Eric M. Results of the eighth annual KHS herp counts Held 1 April-31 May 1996. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (104):6-17
1996 Rakestraw, J. Spring herp counts: A Kansas tradition. Reptile & Amphibian Magazine (March-April):75-80
1998 Conant, Roger and Joseph T. Collins. Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. 3rd ed, expanded. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. pp.
1998 Powell, Robert, Joseph T Collins, and Errol D Hooper Jr. A Key to Amphibians & Reptiles of the Continental United States and Canada. Univ Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas. 131pp.
1998 Gamble, Jerre. Marais des Cygnes National Wildlife Refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Hartford, Kansas. 91pp.
1998 Walley, Harlan D. Eumeces anthracinus. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles (658):1-6
1999 Rundquist, Eric M. Kansas Herpetological Society herp counts: A 10 year summary and evaluation. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (115):42962
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
2002 Kingsbury, Bruce and Joanna Gibson. Habitat Management Guidelines for Amphibians and Reptiles of the Midwest. Publication of Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, Address not given. 152pp.
2003 Taggart, Travis W. Kansas Herpetological Society 2003 spring field trip. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (5):3-4
2004 Daniel, James K. Cherokee County herp count. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (11):10
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
2005 Brandley, Matthew C., Andreas Schmitz, and Todd W. Reeder. Partitioned Bayesian analyses, partition choice, and the phylogenetic relationships of Scincid Lizards. Systematic Biology 54(3):373–390
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.
2010 Collins, Joseph T., Suzanne L. Collins, and Travis W. Taggart. Amphibians, Reptiles, and Turtles of Kansas Eagle Mountain Publishing., Provo, Utah. 400pp.
Joseph T. Collins fourth Kansas herpetology. <Need to get species total and principal differences with previous 'version' (= Collins 1993)>
2011 Taggart, Travis W. Kansas Herpetological Society 2011 spring field trip to beheld in Chautauqua County. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (37):5-7
2011 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the KHS Spring Field Trip to Chautauqua County. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (38):2-4
2012 Rohweder, Megan R. Spatial conservation prioritization of Kansas for terrestrial vertebrates. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 151pp.
2012 Powell, Robert, Joseph T Collins, and Errol D Hooper Jr. Key to the Herpetofauna of the Continental United States and Canada: Second Edition, Revised and Updated. Univ Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas. 152pp.
2013 Taggart, Travis W. KHS 2013 Spring Field Trip to Schermerhorn Park, Cherokee County. Collinsorum 2(3/4):4
2015 Rohweder, Megan R. Kansas Wildlife Action Plan. Ecological Services Section, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism in cooperation with the Kansas Biological Survey. 176pp.
2016 Powell, Robert, Roger Conant, and Joseph T. Collins. Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston. 494pp.
2017 Taggart, Travis W. and J. Daren Riedle. A Pocket Guide to Kansas Amphibians, Turtles and Lizards. Great Plains Nature Center, Wichita, Kansas. 69pp.
2017 Crother, Brian I. (editor) Scientific and Standard English Names of Amphibians and Reptiles of North America North of Mexico, with Comments Regarding Confidence in Our Understanding. Eighth edition. Herpetological Circulars (43):102
2019 Powell, Robert, Joseph T Collins, and Errol D Hooper Jr. Key to the Herpetofauna of the Continental United States and Canada. Third Edition. Univ Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas. 192pp.
2020 Daniel, Richard E. and Brian S. Edmond. Atlas of Missouri Amphibians and Reptiles for 2019. Privately printed, Columbia, Missouri. 86pp.
2020 Riedle, J. Daren. Revisiting Kansas Herpetological Society field trip and Herp Count data: Distributional patterns and trend data of Kansas amphibians and reptiles. Collinsorum 9(1):7-16
2021 Taggart, Travis W and Sarah L Taggart. Herp Count: Cherokee County: KHS-2020-02 Collinsorum 9(3):11-12
2021 Taggart, Travis W and Sarah L Taggart. Herp Count: Cherokee County: KHS-2020-03 Collinsorum 9(3):12
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Travis W. Taggart © 1999-2024 — w/ Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Fort Hays State University