Ben here with the first entry in Herp Month ...

Ben here with the first entry in Herp Month ...

Ben here with the first entry in Herp Month, a month-long exploration of the rarest reptiles and amphibians in Virginia! This week, we'll be looking at the top five rarest lizards in Virginia, starting with Plestiodon anthracinus anthracinus, the northern coal skink!

We have a number of different species of skinks in Virginia, the most ubiquitous of which is the common five-lined skink (Plestiodon fasciatus) that you probably see sunning themselves on the outside of your house every summer.

However, you're pretty unlikely to spot the northern coal skink. This coal skink subspecies can be found in western New York, central Pennsylvania, and scattered throughout the Appalachians. According to the Virginia Herpetological Society website, this lizard has been found in nine counties and one city in Virginia. It has been recorded in Patrick County, but I haven't seen one while taking nature photos on my property yet, and I'm not exactly holding my breath. Apparently only 11 specimens of this lizard are in collections and available to study!

It's a shame that little is known about these secretive skinks, because they're quite unlike any other skinks in Virginia. When pursued by a predator, they don't escape by climbing, for example; instead, they remain terrestrial. Even more impressive, they will often evade predators by crawling into a body of water and hiding under a rock at the bottom!

Thank you to our friends at the Virginia Herpetological Society ( for the use of this photo! #BenInNature

#BenInNature is made possible thanks to the support of VMNH Corporate Partner Carter Bank & Trust.

ABOUT #BenInNature
Social distancing can be difficult, but it presents a great opportunity to become reacquainted with nature. In this series of posts, Administrator of Science Ben Williams ventures outdoors to record a snapshot of the unique sights that can be found in the natural world. New updates are posted Monday - Friday, with previous posts highlighted on the weekends.

If you discover something in nature that you would like help identifying, be sure to message us right here on Facebook with a picture (please include location and date of picture) and we'll have our experts help you identify it!

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