Tail Loss

Ocellated skinks aren’t as enthusiastic about dropping their tails as some arboreal geckos (e.g. the crested gecko), but chances are good that if you house multiple ocellated skinks together — particularly multiple skinks of different sizes — that eventually one will lose all or even part of its tail.

This can be alarming at first, but it doesn’t seem to bother the skinks too much. This is likely because, as with most lizards capable of dropping their tails, this ability evolved as a means of surviving predator attacks. If a bird picks up a lizard by its tail, and the lizard is able to get away by leaving its tail behind, then the lizard gets a second chance to live and reproduce. Pertaining to ocellated skinks specifically, they are not only able to drop their tails, but they are able to re-grow a nearly perfect replica of the original tail afterward, and seem to be able to do this ad infinitum. In fact, juvenile ocellated skink tails are routinely found in the stomach of other ocellated skinks (Carretero et al., 2010), and the metabolic expense of re-growing a lost tail likely helps guard against obesity in captivity.

(As a side note, although the cited study does mention that cannibalistic behavior generally increases under conditions where there isn’t enough food to go around, over-feeding a colony of ocellated skinks is unlikely to totally prevent tail-biting. However, overcrowded conditions are likely to result in an increase in tail-biting and other aggressive behaviors.)

If you find that one of your ocellated skinks has lost all or part of its tail, you don’t need to worry about disinfecting or bandaging it. These wounds close up and heal very well on their own without the stress of human intervention. Just make sure your skink gets plenty of food and their body will take care of the rest.

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