Five-Lined Skink

Five-Lined Skink Guarding Eggs

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Plestiodon fasciatus
Scincidae (skinks) in the order Squamata (lizards and snakes)

Often called the "blue-tailed" skink, this is Missouri's most common skink. It has shiny scales and a dark ground color with light stripes. Color varies with sex and age. Adult males are uniform olive or tan with a faint dark side stripe and a few light stripes, but during breeding season, the male's head is bright red orange. Adult females are normally brown with a dark brown side stripe, five tan stripes that are more pronounced than in males, and a blue or blue-gray tail. Juveniles are black with five yellow stripes running from head to base of tail, and they have a brilliant, cobalt-blue tail.

Similar species: Broad-headed skinks are very similar, but they lack postlabial scales, or only have one. The five-lined skink, however, has two postlabial scales: these are the scales positioned, one on top of the other, in the space between the lip scales and the ear hole.

Total length: 6½ inches (average).
Habitat and conservation: 
These skinks live in open woods, near wooded bluffs, and on rocky, south-facing hillsides. They require shelters such as rocks, downed logs, stumps, and standing dead trees. They occasionally climb trees, especially when searching for insects. They can also live around farm buildings, rock gardens, and patios. Active, in our state, from April to October. As with other skinks, the tail breaks off easily, allowing them to escape predators. A new tail grows back later.
Five-lined skinks eat a variety of insects and spiders.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Statewide, except for some far northern counties.
Life cycle: 
In Missouri, egg-laying takes place from late April through June. Females nest in leaf litter or under rotten logs, tree stumps, or rocks, laying 4-14 eggs. She stays with her eggs until they hatch, eating any bad eggs to remove them from the nest. The eggs hatch in 1-2 months. The strikingly different coloration of juveniles is believed to be a way of protecting them from territorial males who, during breeding season, might attack them if they looked like adult five-headed skinks.
Human connections: 
Some people have dubbed them "scorpions," but they are completely unrelated to those spider-like creatures and are certainly not poisonous. But that colorful nickname indicates that Missourians have long been intrigued by these fascinating and harmless lizards.
Ecosystem connections: 
Lizards are predators that help keep populations of insects and other small animals in balance. They, and their vulnerable eggs and hatchlings, fall prey to hawks, opossums, armadillos, skunks, moles, shrews, snakes, and larger lizards.
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