The conspicuous coloring is a survival trait: it attracts a predator's attention to the tail of the animal, which will break off when grabbed. A skink thus often manages to escape and hide under some rock, log, or fallen leaves while the predator still contemplates the wildly thrashing severed tail. (This is an instance of what is called autotomy: voluntarily shedding a body part in order to escape, and later regenerating the body part.) After the tail regenerates, it usually has the same color as the rest of the body and is typically shorter than the original tail. In some species, regrown tails are pinkish. A regrown tail has a cartilaginous rod for support instead of vertebrae.
Like other reptiles, these skinks are "cold-blooded" — they are ectothermic animals: their metabolism cannot regulate their body temperature. To warm up, they often bask in the sun. In colder climates, they hibernate in winter in burrows below the frost line. In hot climates, they are active mainly in the morning and evening, staying under cover during the hottest hours of the day to avoid overheating.