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Red-eyed crocodile skinks (Tribolonotus gracilis) are native to New Guinea. They are sometimes called "armored" skinks because the bony points on their heads and the chevrons on their backs look like armor. While herpetologists haven't pinned down an average life span for these lizards, captive specimens live at least 5 years with proper care.
Scientists don't know much about red-eyed crocodile skinks' behavior in the wild, and mating in the wild has never been observed. Skinks reach sexual maturity at about 3 years of age and reproduce for at least two years, dying shortly thereafter. When a breeding pair is kept together in captivity, females lay a single egg approximately once every five weeks. That egg undergoes an incubation period of about 60 days before the offspring hatches. Breeders note 76 degrees Fahrenheit seems to be the ideal habitat temperature for a skink egg. Unlike many reptiles, for these creatures, temperature doesn't affect whether the egg develops into a male or female hatchling.
Hatchlings and Juveniles
Hatchlings are around 2.5 inches long; they grow to about 7 inches on average, males being slightly longer than females. Juveniles have dark brown skin with a thin white stripe running down their backs. As they mature, the white stripe disappears and the skin develops a more reddish-brown coloration. In captivity, juveniles eat smaller feeder insects such as crickets and waxworms. As they grow, they begin to eat larger insects and mealworms. Housing multiple hatchlings or juveniles of roughly the same size is acceptable, though they may fight with each other once they've reached sexual maturity.
As adults, crocodile skinks' spiked skin is a solid, reddish-brown color, and they have the bright orange circles around their eyes for which the species is known. Red-eyed crocodile skinks can be kept in pairs, either one male and one female or two females. Breeders note male and female pairs work best together, as individuals of the same sex can become aggressive toward each other. Because they naturally live in a moist tropical climate near rivers and streams, they thrive in habitats that are frequently misted with water and maintained with at least 80 percent humidity.
Captive vs. Wild Longevity
Little is known about the lizard's natural behavior and life span. These shy and secretive lizards like to hide, so no one knows for sure what time of day or night they are most active. Captive specimens seem to be most active at night, but this may be because they come out when people aren't active. The longest reported lifespan of a crocodile skink in captivity is 12 years. The Cincinnati Zoo, which keeps two female specimens, estimates individuals of the species live five to six years on average.
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