Skink, Five-lined


Eumeces inexpectatus


Skin is blackish-brown with five narrow, light-colored stripes down their backs. The tail can be blue or gray, and males have a reddish-orange head. Southeastern five-lined skinks range in size from 5 to 8 inches. Scales on the underside of the tail are about the same size. This characteristic differentiates this species from the eastern five-lined skink (E. fasciatus) and the larger broad-headed skink (E. laticeps). On the undersides of their tails a central row of scales is larger.

Family

Scincidae

Order

Squamata

Class

Reptilia

Range

Southern Maryland and Virginia to the Florida Keys, extends west to Louisiana and northeast to Kentucky.

Habitat

Damp wooded areas, as well as dry scrub oak forests; also found near seasonal wetlands that dry during the summer

Life Expectancy

A wild caught adult survived 2 years and 3 months in captivity; presumably Southeastern five-lined skinks may survive 10 years or more.

Sexual Maturity

Approximately 18 months or less

Diet

In the wild, they eat primarily insects and spiders. In the Zoo, they are fed insects like mealworms, crickets and waxworms.

Status

IUCN - Least Concern

Behaviors

The Southeastern five-lined skink can inflict a painful bite, but is not poisonous. It is often seen basking on logs. It is diurnal, spending most of its time on the ground, under leaf litter and rotting logs where it forages for small invertebrates, spiders, insects, etc. It often takes up residence on patios and porches where prey is found in abundance. Females lay 8-12 eggs under a log in spring and guard them until they hatch. Then the babies, with their bright blue tails, are on their own.

Adaptions

These skinks are good climbers. They have relatively small legs and their smooth scales contain a bony center (an osteoderm) making them impervious to wasp stings, whose nests they may raid to eat the pupae.

Special Interests

The five-lined skink is almost identical to the broad-headed skink. The most obvious difference is size; the five-lined skink is smaller than the broad-headed skink.

Folklore

In the South, the skinks, especially the adult male broad-headed skinks are sometimes called “scorpions” and some people believe their bite to be poisonous. Herpetologists formerly scoffed at this folklore, but as is often the case with animal myths, this belief may be rooted in some degree of truth. It is now known that if a juvenile still exhibiting its bright blue tail is eaten by a cat, serious neurological symptoms such as a loss of balance, crossing of the eyes, paralysis and even death may follow. This would indicate that the bright coloration and markings of the young skink are actually warning colors similar to that displayed by the poison arrow frog.

Conservation

Jacksonville Zoo History

Exhibit

Wild Florida