Loveridge’s Limbless Skink or Black Legless Liza
** *Common Group:** Skinks * Common Name: Loveridge’s Limbless Skinks, Black Legless Lizards * Scientific Name: Melanoseps loveridgei * Distribution: East Africa
An uncommonly kept species in captivity, these small, nondescript little lizards are not often studied. They are burrowers and can be found throughout East Africa from the sub mountainous region down to coastal forests. They may inhabit dryer regions in Africa but they spend almost their entire lives underground, where ambient humidity is significantly higher. They are slim, black creatures that are entirely smooth. Like many other skinks, they can lose their tails if threatened, but they do not regrow them back.
Size and Longevity
Adult specimens can reach 8 inches total length. Longevity is unknown.
As small, burrowing lizards, Loveridge’s Limbless Skinks should be housed in cages that can accommodate their need to bury themselves. A 10 gallon tank is adequate for one or two skinks, although they can also be comfortably placed in larger living vivariums with deep enough soil. Substrate
Substrate used for these little skinks should be able to hold moisture without becoming overly soggy or moldy. It also should not dry out too easily, as they require higher ambient humidity to maintain good skin condition. Ideal substrates include compressed coconut bark such as Eco Earth or Bed A Beast, as well as Orchid bark, Cypress Mulch, or any of the mixed beddings such as Jungle Bedding or Forest Bedding. Your skinks should have at least an inch of bedding to burrow in, with much more being preferred.
Decor and Cage Furnishings
Since your skinks will be spending almost all of their time underground, feel free to decorate the cage how you wish! If you would like to find them easily, use of Cork Flats, half buried Half Logs, Caves, and other types of hiding places placed snugly against the substrate will provide ideal hiding spots for your skinks to come to the surface and hang out in. Fake plants, live plants, and vines will make your cage more interesting to look at, but your skinks are unlikely to utilize foliage. However, when the mood strikes them, occasionally they will emerge from the substrate to clamber towards a basking light or other heat source. This means if you place Grapevine or Cork Flats directly under your cage’s lighting source, you are likely to see your skinks a little more often.
Heating and Lighting
Heating for these comical little lizards is fairly easy and straight forward. They do not need particularly high temperatures and in fact seem to avoid overly warm areas in the substrate. If they are housed alone, a simple 10 gallon under tank heater should be adequate for providing them warmer temperatures should they desire them. While they do not seek out high temperatures for extended periods of time, they do seek them out to digest food and should be provided with at least a small area of somewhat elevated temperatures. This “basking” area should reach between 85 and 90 degrees, with the rest of the cage dropping to the mid 70s or even cooler.
Little is really known about these skinks in the wild, and they are still fairly new to the reptile keeping hobby, so the question of what lighting is really necessary is one that is still being answered. At this time, it is recommended to provide them with at least some UVB to aid in calcium absorption and D3 production. Use of a single 5.0 or 10.0 compact fluorescent (depending on cage height) should provide adequate light to meet their needs. They have also proven to do extremely well in large, planted living vivariums lit with Mercury Vapor Bulbs.
Water and Humidity
Since Loveridge’s Limbless Skinks spend a majority of their time underground, humidity in the air of the cage is not nearly as important as humidity in the substrate of the cage. Care should be taken to keep at least part of the substrate moist at all times, although the entire cage does not need to be soaking wet. Ideally, about half of the cage should be kept at least damp, while the other half is allowed to dry out. This lets the skinks choose the exact humidity they need, without too much tinkering or fussing. When the substrate is kept sufficiently humid, your skinks will seldom need to drink from a water dish, but a dish full of fresh, clean water should always be provided to them nonetheless.
Again, because little is known about these skinks in the wild, their dietary preferences in their natural habitat are unknown. However, in captivity they cheerfully consume small mealworms and crickets, as well as reptiworms, waxworms, silkworms, and hornworms. It is recommended to dust their feeder insects in a high quality calcium powder containing D3 at least every other feeding, and a multivitamin should be provided about once a week. Variety is the spice of life and will likely prove integral to successfully keeping these lizards long-term, so experimentation with other types of feeder insects is highly recommended.
Handling and Interaction
As one of the smaller creatures found in their natural habitat, it is likely that they are commonly preyed upon by other species. Because of this, they do not seem to appreciate regular handling and typically squirm and writhe frantically to escape. It is not recommended to handle them often, as the stress will likely shorten their lifespan over the long run. Despite their panicked attempts to escape being handled, they rarely even attempt to bite, so their lack of aggression should not be considered as proof they do not mind being handled.
Because they spend so much time underground, it should not come as a surprise that if your cage is set up correctly you will rarely see your skinks out and about. However, they do occasionally venture out to the surface of their terrarium, and will squirm around the cage looking for food. This can be the most entertaining part of owning these strange little skinks - they completely lack any grace when not underground, and typically spend several minutes flopping around the cage before disappearing back into their burrows.