Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the February 2, 2007 Newsletter issued from Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, QUERÉTARO, MÉXICO

The Reserve has a tiny demonstration garden right next to the offices, the idea being to remind local folks that they can grow things other than tropical fruits, squash, manioc and the like. I work in it and from time to time snip a few greens.

The other day as I was weeding it I pulled up a big tuft of long-rooted grass and dislodged a good bit of dusty, sandy, pebbly material -- too dry and loose to dignify with the name of soil -- and a brown, shiny skink. Skinks are lizards belonging to the Skink Family.

I was delighted, especially because during my stay here, much in contrast to my past Yucatan locations, I've run across very few reptiles and amphibians. I've heard frogs croaking and I saw one remarkably long, slender snake swimming across the reservoir, and that's it.

This skink looked familiar. With its thick body, brown color, many rows of prominent scales and a dark line right through its eye and down its body it reminded me of the Broad-headed Skinks I used to write about back in Mississippi. However, it didn't have an angular head or any hint of orange around the throat.

Some years back two herpetologists (reptile-and-amphibian specialists) made a list of "herps" here in the Reserve, turning up eight or nine species of amphibian and eleven reptile species. By Googling each skink name on their list I decided that probably my garden discovery was the Four-lined Skink, EUMECES TETRAGRAMMUS, distributed from central Texas south at least to here. You can see one at http://www.naherpetology.org/detail.asp?id=543.

So, that was pretty good. May this be the first of many herps I run into here.