Günther's cylindrical skink (Chalcides guentheri)

Günther's cylindrical skink
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Günther's cylindrical skink fact file

Günther's cylindrical skink description

GenusChalcides (1)

Günther’s cylindrical skink (Chalcides guentheri) is a small, snake-like lizard with a slender, elongated body and highly reduced limbs (2) (3) (4). Its limbs consist of mere stumps, which lack digits (3) (4) and are the most highly reduced of any Chalcides species (5).

As in other skink species, the body of Günther’s cylindrical skink is covered in smooth, overlapping scales (6). Like other Chalcides species it also has a fairly pointed snout, with a large scale at the tip (3). Günther’s cylindrical skink is generally greyish-olive above, with lighter underparts. The upper side of the head is slightly darker than the rest of the body, and the scales on the upperparts of the body have dark margins (2).

The marked elongation of the body and the reduced limbs of Günther’s cylindrical skink are thought to be adaptations to living among grass and other vegetation. Its snake-like body form allows it to move rapidly through its environment using undulating, side-to-side movements of the body (3) (5) (7).

As in other Chalcides species with elongated bodies, the female Günther’s cylindrical skink is likely to grow larger than the male (3) (7).

Snout-vent length: c. 13.2 cm (2)
Tail length: c. 10.8 cm (2)

Günther's cylindrical skink biology

Relatively little information is available on the biology of Günther’s cylindrical skink. Like most other skinks, it is likely to be an active forager that feeds on insects and other small arthropods (6). A captive individual was reported to readily eat termite larvae (2). Skinks generally use chemical and visual signals to communicate, and the males may become aggressive towards rivals during the breeding season (6).

Günther’s cylindrical skink is viviparous, giving birth to live young rather than laying eggs. Although little specific information is available on reproduction in Günther’s cylindrical skink, it is likely that it has developed an unusual reproductive strategy seen in other Chalcides species with similarly elongated bodies. In these species, the narrowness of the body has led to the production of smaller eggs. Perhaps to compensate for smaller yolk supplies, a placenta-like structure develops during gestation, to help nourish the developing embryos (3) (7).

The larger size of the female in comparison to the male may allow the females of these species to produce larger clutches (3) (7). In Günther’s cylindrical skink, the female has been reported to give birth to an average of three young (1).


Günther's cylindrical skink range

An eastern Mediterranean species, Günther’s cylindrical skink is found in northwest Jordan, southwest Syria, northern and central Israel and parts of southern Lebanon (1) (2) (8).


Günther's cylindrical skink habitat

Günther’s cylindrical skink usually occurs in oak (Quercus) woodland, in glades in shrubland, or sometimes in grasslands outside of woods (1). Individuals have also been found on open ground covered with boulders and sparse grasses (2).

This species has been recorded at elevations up to about 1,500 metres (1).


Günther's cylindrical skink status

Günther’s cylindrical skink is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Günther's cylindrical skink threats

Günther’s cylindrical skink occupies a relatively restricted and highly fragmented range, and is believed to be declining due to the loss and degradation of its habitat (1). Much of its habitat is being converted for agriculture, and Günther’s cylindrical skink is not known to live in modified environments (1).

In Jordan, reptiles such as Günther’s cylindrical skink are also likely to be under threat from a range of other human impacts, including urban expansion, infrastructure development, and the poor implementation of environmental laws and legislation (9).


Günther's cylindrical skink conservation

Günther’s cylindrical skink is protected by law in Israel, and occurs in at least two protected areas, at Mount Hermon and Mount Meron (1). However, no other specific conservation measures are currently known to be in place for this unusual and little-known reptile.


Find out more

Find out more about Günther’s cylindrical skink:

More information on conservation in the Mediterranean region:



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A very diverse phylum (a major grouping of animals) that includes crustaceans, insects and arachnids. All arthropods have paired jointed limbs and a hard external skeleton (exoskeleton).
The state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
Giving birth to live offspring that develop inside the mother’s body.


  1. IUCN Red List (December, 2011)
  2. Göçmen, B., Disi, A.M. and Yıldız, M.Z. (2008) On the occurrence of Blanus strauchi aporus Werner, 1898 and Chalcides guentheri Boulenger, 1887 (Reptilia) in the Mediterranean ecozone of Syria. Zoology in the Middle East, 43: 69-74.
  3. Carranza, S., Arnold, E.N., Geniez, P., Roca, J. and Mateo, J.A. (2008) Radiation, multiple dispersal and parallelism in the skinks, Chalcides and Sphenops (Squamata: Scincidae), with comments on Scincus and Scincopus and the age of the Sahara Desert. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 46: 1071-1094.
  4. Pasteur, G. (1981) A survey of the species groups of the Old World scincid genus Chalcides. Journal of Herpetology, 15(1): 1-16.
  5. Greer, A.E., Caputo, V., Lanza, B. and Palmieri, R. (1998) Observations on limb reduction in the scincid lizard genus Chalcides. Journal of Herpetology, 32(2): 244-252.
  6. Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  7. Caputo, V., Guarino, F.M. and Angelini, F. (2000) Body elongation and placentome evolution in the scincid lizard genus Chalcides (Squamata, Scincidae). Italian Journal of Zoology, 67(4): 385-391.
  8. The Reptile Database (December, 2011)
  9. Al-Quran, S. (2009) The herpetofauna of the Southern Jordan. American-Eurasian Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, 6(4): 385-391.

Image credit

Günther's cylindrical skink  
Günther's cylindrical skink

© Guy Haimovitch

Guy Haimovitch


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