The Skinks of Grahamstown

The Skinks of Grahamstown

Listed below are the skinks that you are most likely to see or find in and around Grahamstown. 

Family: Scincidae

The Scincidae family is considered the most species-rich lizard family in the world. In South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland combined, there are 59 recognized species and several subspecies. Skinks are characterized by shiny overlapping scales and a cylindrical, robust  body. Most skinks also feed on invertebrates and irrespective of whether they have limbs or not, these lizards can become hyper-abundant in certain localities, where they often form a large part of the diet of predators’.

Subfamily: Lygosominae

Genus: Trachylepsis

The members of this genus are referred to as ‘typical skinks’ and they are widespread and  present in all the major biomes of South Africa. There are currently 13 members of this genus in South Africa, most of which are viviparous (live bearing offspring). All the lizards in this group are diurnal (active by day) and most  spend their time on rocks where they can often be seen darting in and out crevices in search of food, safety and warmth.

Cape Skink (Trachylepis capensis)


Red-Sided Skink (Trachylepis homalocephala) 


Variable Skink (Trachylepis varia) 


Subfamily: Acontinae

Genus: Acontias

This genus is highly diverse with 20 species currently residing in South Africa. Twelve of these are endemic to South Africa and thus exist nowhere else in world. The legless skinks are fossorial skinks (live underground) that tend to  favour soft sediments. Whilst you are unlikely to spot them basking in the daylight, they can often be found under loose rocks, rubble, fallen logs or at the base of grass tufts. Once spotted however, they often escape quickly into the ground with the help of their large rostral scale on their snouts which enables them to plough through the sediment with ease. This group is also characterized by a lack of limbs, an adaptation which aids them in their fossorial lifestyles.

Eastern Cape Legless Skink (Acontias orientalis)



Alexander, G. & Marais, J. 2007. A Guide to the Reptiles of Southern Africa. Cape Town. STRUIK Nature.

Bates, M.F., Branch, W.R., Bauer, A.M., Burger, M., Marais, J., Alexander, G.J. & de Villiers, M.S. (eds). 2014. (CD set). Atlas and Red List of the Reptiles of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Suricata 1. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.

Published by Chad Keates

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