Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last updated January 1, 2014

Mabuya sp.

©2000 Melissa Kaplan


There are more than eighty species of these sleek, long-tailed skinks. As befits their numbers, they can be found through various habitats in Southeast Asia, Africa and the tropics of the Americas. About the only places they are not found are in deserts* and shady forests.


To 30 cm (12 in).


Physical description
Slender, cylindrical body; may be slightly flattened dorsoventrally. The base of the head behind the pointed snout is not well-defined from the neck and body. The lower eyelid is moveable. Ear openings are pronounced; burrowing species may have a "fringe" of scales on the leading edge of the ear openings. Limbs are well formed, each with five toes. The tail is long and tapering. Scales are ridged.

Color and markings vary amongst species and members, but are primarily shades of brown. Many have bright colored areas and longitudinal stripes.

Tails autotomize and are somewhat fragile. Catching for handling and transfer should be done with care.


Primarily terrestrial, some do climb rocks and trees; near human habitation, they may be found on walls and fences. Forested species may be found only where there are clearing or openings to allow sunlight to penetrate for basking.

During their most active times of day, their body temperatures may be 3-10 C (37-50 F) degrees higher than the ambient temperatures.


These insectivores, who feed primarily on arthropods, will occasionally eat some sweet fruit. Gut load insects before feeding out with nutritious food and vitamin and calcium supplements.


Most are oviparous, but some are ovoviviparous. Some populations may reproduce both by oviparity and ovoviviparity. Males of some species may aggressively court the females. Nesting sites should be provided under logs or bark slabs. Females may stay with the eggs. Young are generally darker overall than the adults.


Captive Care
Mabuya should be set up in spacious enclosures furnished as for open woodlands: clean soil substrate mixed with sand and perhaps small pieces of orchid bark to lighten, with slabs of bark, rocks and branches for climbing on for basking and sleeping under. One section of the substrate should be kept damp.

Provide daily basking areas with an overhead radiant heat source. The overallthermal gradient ranging from 25-30 C (77-86 F), and the basking area to 32 C (90 F). Reduce heat at night no lower than 20 C (68 F) on the cool side.

Water should be provided, A water bowl may be used; initially, a dripper bottle to drip water into the bowl may be useful to get them used to it.

UVB radiation is required, as with most diurnal insectivores.

Most Mabuya are relatively compatible with each other and, given a large enough enclosure, may be kept in small groups. Some males, however, are aggressive towards other males.

Some species are considered "difficult" to keep in captivity.



M. capensis. Southern Africa grasslands. 25 cm (10 in.). 10-15 young.

M. carinata. Shiny Skink. India and Sri Lanka forests. To 30 cm (12 in.). Oviparous.

M. chapaense. Vietnam.

M. darevskii. Vietnam.

M. mabouya. American Shiny Skink. Central and South America, adaptable to many environments. 25 cm (10 in.)

M. megalura. Grass-top Skink.

M. multifasciata. Many-striped Mabuya. Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Philippines dry brushlands. To 20 cm (8 in.). Fossorial. Ovoviviparous.

M. quinquetaeniata. Rainbow Rock Skink; Five-striped Mabuya. Northeastern to southeastern Africa savannahs and steppes; may be found near human habitation. To 25 cm (10 in.). Oviparous.

M. striata. African Striped Skink; Striped Skink; House Skink. Eastern and southern Africa, adaptable to many environments; often in open areas, including those disturbed by man. To 20 cm (8 in.). Ovoviviparous.

M. sechellensis. Seychelles and Amirantes Islands

M. septemtaeniata (M. aurata). Northeastern Africa to southeastern Asia, in dry, rocky areas. To 20 cm (8 in.). Ovoviviparous.

M. spilogaster. Kalahari Tree Skink, Namib desert. (Per J. Walls).

M. unimarginata. Costa Rica.

M. vittata. Northeastern Africa to Asia Minor grasslands and brush. 18 cm (7.2 in.). Ovoviviparous


California Acadamy of Sciences.

La Selva Biological Station

Obst, et al. 1988. Completely Illustrated Atlas of Reptiles and Amphibians. TFH Publishing, Neptune City, NJ.

Walls, J.G. 1994. Skinks: Identification, care and breeding.

World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Related Articles

TIGR Reptile Database: Scincidae: Mabuya

Feeding and Housing Prey Insects

Prey Sources

Glossary of Herp and Related Terms

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