This little Broad-headed Skink (Eumeces laticeps) has had an encounter with a predator, most likely some bird, that has marred her beauty but saved her life. Skinks are fairly small creatures, this one from nose to the base of her tail is 3 to 4 inches. She would normally be invisible in the litter on the floor of the forest where this picture was taken. She was scampering along the handrail of a boardwalk when I happened along. She was kind enough to pose for me and I have a series of photographs from this magical encounter. Most of the skinks I have ever seen were brief glimpses of them scurrying off at high speed. I was very lucky to be able to spend as much time with this tiny creature as I did.
Notice her yellow racing stripes, 2 down each side and her blue tail. Not all skinks are this colorful, many of the ones I have seen are dingy brown or grayish. The skinks as a group have a shiny, almost glass-like quality to their body scales. I suspect that slick, shiny appearance helps keep the dirt and mud from sticking to them.
If you look closely at the picture, you will see that this colorful, little lizard is missing the end of her tail. Many of the smaller lizards have a defense mechanism where a special band of muscles near the end of their tail can constrict when they are attacked and break off the end of the tail. The tail tip will squirm and wiggle.
The skink is betting its life on the wiggling tail tip distracting the predator while it makes a quick exit to safety. The lizard sacrifices a small portion of its tail in exchange for survival. The lizard, if it lives long enough, will regrow the missing tail to its former glory. And that, folks, is the end of my skinky tale.