The Sandfish Skink

By Snaketracks / April 4, 2020
SandFish Skink
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Sandfish Skink

The Sandfish Skink (Scientific: Scincus scincus) is an interestingly beautiful type of skink with a good temperament. This skink is a sand-dweller. This lizard is of the family Scincidae. It’s native to desert regions throughout North Africa and around the southwest Asia.

The Sandfish Skink is named appropriately because of its amazing ability to “swim” and travel through sand in a way similar to how a fish swims in water.

Not only is this skink known for its phenomenal ability to swim in sand, but moreso, this little reptile is also a colorful and personable lizard, growing relatively popular in the reptile community.

Quick Reference Section

  • Scientific Name: Scincus scincus
  • Alternate Names: Sandfish skink, Common sandfish, Apotheker Skink, Sandfish
  • Family: Scincidae
  • Size: 5-8 inches
  • Diet: A variety of insects, crickets, worms, and primarily beetles
  • Recommended Books: Skinks Lizards as Pets (Complete Care Guide)

Interesting facts about the Sandfish Skink

Scincus_scincus-Sandfish-Skink
Sandfish Skink

Like most reptiles, the Sandfish skink is a cold-blooded creature. This species, in particular, has developed a peculiar way of dealing with heat.

This cold-blooded skink dives and swims through the soft sand to regulate its body temperature and to escape from its predators (namely their arch-nemesis, the devil-headed Saharan snake).

Unlike most common burrowing creatures that use their limbs to move about, the Sandfish skink swims through the sand without using their limbs, rather, by tucking their limbs against their sides, and undulating its whole body and making a fish-like side to side movement. The Sandfish skink’s body is built to literally swim through the sand.

Sandfish skinks also have the awesome ability to breathe under the sand. When completely submerged in the sand, they breathe the air caught in between the small grains of sand.

They possess unique, specially formed respiratory tracts that catch sand particles and prevent any grains of sand from entering their lungs. The Sandfish skink “sneezes” the sand caught by their respiratory tracts.

These amazing, spry little skinks hunt insects by picking up on and sensing the vibrations their prey makes whilst moving through the desert sand.

What does the Sandfish Skink look like?

Common Sandfish Skink
Common Sandfish

The Sandfish skink grows to about 5-8 inches. This skink is designed with a moderately stout body, short sturdy legs, and a relatively short tail.

Their heads are conical with a long wedge-shaped snout with a countersunk lower jaw, which is a common adaptation for desert animals. This prevents sand from getting into their mouth. Their noses are quite small, and conveniently so, in order to easily prevent sand from getting in.

Their ears are hidden with scales and they have bead-like black eyes, which are considerably rather small, and are characterized by a transparent “window” formed by several large scales along their lower lids. Their long tapered bodies are covered with smooth and shiny scales.

The Sandfish skink’s limbs are short and sturdy. Their feather-like toes are flattened and have elongated scales along their sides, which presumably aids in walking over the surface of the sand at night. But these shy little critters spend most of their time “swimming” below the surface.

This little skink is simply beautifully and attractively colored, and they blend quite well in their sandy habitats.

The upper part of this pretty skink’s body is light tan or yellow caramel, with brown-black cross bands along their body; and the top of their head is a dark tan/light brown color hue.

Where can the Sandfish Skink be found?

Sandfish Skink
Scincus scincus out in the wild

The Sandfish skink is a diurnal desert-dwelling lizard native to the sandy deserts of northern Africa, west coast of Africa, and through the Saharan and Arabian deserts.

Specifically found in the areas of Algeria including Tunisia, and including Libya, to Egypt, as well as the Mediterranean coast. The Sandfish skink is also found in regions of Jordan, Israel, Iran, and Iraq.

What kind of habitat does the Sandfish Skink live in?

These little critters live in desert areas and like to burrow in the desert sand; and because it can get really hot, they also do this to keep themselves safe from the hot sunrays, and cool off during mid daytime hours.

What does the Sandfish Skink eat?

Like most lizards, the Sandfish skink is an insectivore, meaning they feed mostly on insects. Their diets consist primarily of tiny insects such as crickets and worms, and their primary food source is beetles. Interestingly this cool little skink is able to detect its preys’ vibrations, which are created when they move near the skink.

How long Does the Sandfish Skink live?

Male Sandfish Skink
Sandfish Skink

These shy and little creatures carry an average lifespan of about 6-10 years normally. Some estimate that these can grow old up to 15 years.

How many eggs does the Sandfish Skink lay?

More information is needed on this but some stats suggest a Sandfish skink’s clutch size to be around 2-6 eggs on average.

What predators does the Sandfish Skink have?

The slithery devil-headed Saharan snake is commonly referred to as the Sandfish skink’s nemesis.

Is it legal to have the Sandfish Skinks as a pet?

Sandfish skink
Common Sandfish Skink in sand

Sandfish skinks are rarely bred in captivity so most of these lizards in the pet trade are caught in the wild. Find these small reptiles with ease at pet stores around areas in the UK and US. You can also look around for Sandfish skinks at scheduled reptile expos.

There is no issue about legality maybe mainly because Sandfish skinks are usually easy to care for and can make for a great pet, especially if you are content with a pet reptile that does not like to be held and is not visible for most of the time.

Sandfish Skink Care Video

Skink Care Book

If you want to know more about this animal and it’s care, this book has everything you need to know about the Sandfish Skink as well as other skinks.

Conclusion

These amazing little desert-dwelling reptiles are quite marvelous. Their ability to swim through sand like a fish is very unique and awesome.

These personable reptiles would make for a good display pet. However, they prefer not to be handled.

The Sandfish skink has a good temperament but is very shy. And, it is not for someone who wants to frequently handle a pet reptile. These shy lizards should only be handled for regular check-ups. They will also frequently burrow in the sand, hidden from view.

Overall, the exotic Sandfish skink is a beautiful, interesting, and amazing little reptile that is easy to care for. So, there’s no wonder as to why they are growing popular in the reptile community.

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