Crocodile Skink

The crocodile skink, also popular as red-eyed crocodile skink, is a lizard that belongs to the genus Tribolonotus, which is a part of the family Scincidae. These skinks often kept as exotic pets because of their dragon-like appearance, are native to the numerous islands in Oceania located north of Australia. Although there are a few related species, such as the white-eyed crocodile skink, which are also called crocodile skinks, the red-eyed species is the most popular one. This skink species gets a part of its name from the bright red or orange scales that surround their eyes, forming a ring.

Scientific Classification

Tribolonotus gracilis

Table Of Content

Scientific Classification

Tribolonotus gracilis

Physical Description and Appearance

Size: It is a relatively small skink species, with its length ranging from 8-10 in (20-25 cm).

Weight: The reptile species has an average weight of about one pound.

Color: It is both dorsally and laterally dark brown in color, and it has a cream or yellowish underbelly.

Crocodile Skink

Body: The crocodile skink has a stout body with powerful legs. It is characterized by four rows of keeled scales (each one having a tapered end) along its back, giving it a crocodile-like appearance.

Sexual dimorphism: Only the male red-eyed crocodile skinks have white pores or pads on the hind feet. The males are also larger and stockier than females.


The red-eyed crocodile skink has a small distribution range, as it is only found on the island of New Guinea in the Indonesian archipelago and the state of Papua New Guinea in Oceania.

Crocodile Skink Size
Full Grown Crocodile Skink

What Kind of Habitats do Crocodile Skinks live in

The crocodile skinks inhabit the humid, tropical forests where daytime temperature can reach 81 °F while the nighttime temperature is 73 °F. They can also adapt to reside in human-populated regions, as they have been observed to colonize heaps of coconut husks on a coconut plantation in Madang Province.


For such a small reptile, the red-eyed crocodile skink sure has a long lifespan. While its average life expectancy is about 5-6 years, the oldest specimen ever recorded lived for 12 years in captivity.


The crocodile skink, being an insectivore, feeds on a variety of insects and their larvae, including small crickets, mealworms, fruit flies, red wrigglers, silkworms, and roaches.

Red Eyed Crocodile Skink
Crocodile Skink Picture

Behavioral Characteristics

  • It is a shy, crepuscular lizard, meaning it remains most active during dawn and dusk.
  • Although it can climb on low-lying branches of trees, it spends most of the time on the forest floor, digging into leaf litter or debris of soil. It does not climb to the top of trees.
  • It vocalizes or produces a sound when in distress.
  • The red-eyed crocodile skink plays dead and may drop its tail when startled.


  • The four lines of scales on its back, along with the bony plate on the head, work as a suit of armor, protecting the crocodile skink from predators.
  • Its audible squeaking sound helps deter predators, keeping it safe from their attacks.
  • It has protective coloring (camouflage) that helps it in hiding easily in its habitat.

Mating and Reproduction

In the wild, the crocodile skink’s breeding season begins in December and continues till March. However, in captivity, its breeding can be started at any time by controlling the temperature and humidity of its habitat. Although the females have two ovaries, only the right one is functional.

They lay one egg each week, and this oviposition continues for 5-6 weeks. Before laying the eggs, the crocodile skinks dig a nest where they bury the eggs just below the substrate. The parents then stand guard to protect their nests from other males and predators. Newborn skinks remain with their mothers for about two weeks after hatching.

Crocodile Skink Male and Female
Baby Crocodile Skink

What does the Baby Crocodile Skink look like

Juvenile crocodile skinks are characterized by the same skin texture and body type as the adults, but they can be distinguished by the coloration of their eyes and head. Hatchlings have a creamy brown head, along with a light blue iris, and the reddish-orange scales are not present around their eyes. The mature coloration occurs at roughly six months of age. It takes approximately three or four years before the juveniles become sexually mature.

Conservation Status

Its population is not endangered, and it has been recognized as a ‘Least Concern’ skink species by the IUCN Red List.

Interesting Facts

  • As exotic pets, the crocodile skinks are found in zoos and households worldwide.
  • Researchers believe that the males secrete a chemical to attract female skinks.

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