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Plestiodon fasciatus

Plestiodon fasciatus (*)

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Superphylum: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Megaclassis: Osteichthyes
Superclassis: Sarcopterygii
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Cladus: Reptiliomorpha
Cladus: Amniota
Classis: Reptilia
Cladus: Eureptilia
Cladus: Romeriida
Subclassis: Diapsida
Cladus: Sauria
Infraclassis: Lepidosauromorpha
Superordo: Lepidosauria
Ordo: Squamata
Subordo: Scincomorpha
Superfamilia: Scincoidea

Familia: Scincidae
Subfamilia: Scincinae
Genus: Plestiodon
Species: Plestiodon fasciatus

Plestiodon fasciatus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Type locality: “Carolina”
Original combination: Lacerta fasciata
Combination: Eumeces fasciatus


? Lacerta quinquelineata — Linnaeus, 1766
Eumeces fasciatus — Heilprin, 1888: 26
Eumeces fasciatus — Taylor, 1936: 188
Eumeces fasciatus — Conant & Collins, 1991: 128
Eumeces fasciatus — Griffith, Ngo & Murphy, 2000
Eumeces fasciatus — Whiting et al., 2003
Plestiodon fasciatus — Schmitz et al., 2004


Linnaeus, C. 1758. Systema Naturae per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis, Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata. Holmiæ: impensis direct. Laurentii Salvii. i–ii, 1–824 pp DOI: 10.5962/bhl.title.542: 209. Reference page.
Plestiodon fasciatus at the New Reptile Database
IUCN: Plestiodon fasciatus (Linnaeus, 1758) (Least Concern)

Vernacular names
English: Five-lined Skink
Nederlands: Gestreepte skink

The (American) five-lined skink (Plestiodon fasciatus) is a species of lizard in the family Scincidae. The species is endemic to North America. It is one of the most common lizards in the eastern U.S. and one of the seven native species of lizards in Canada.

Common names

Other common names for P. fasciatus include blue-tailed skink (for juveniles) and red-headed skink (for adults). It is technically appropriate to call it the American five-lined skink to distinguish it from the African skink Trachylepis quinquetaeniata (otherwise known as five-lined mabuya) or the eastern red-headed skink to distinguish it from its western relative Plestiodon skiltonianus (otherwise known as the western skink). The blue-tailed skink proper is Cryptoblepharus egeriae from Christmas Island, but in North America the juveniles of any Eumeces or Plestiodon species may be called this.

The American five-lined skink is small to medium-sized, growing to about 12.5 to 21.5 centimetres (4.9 to 8.5 in) total length (including tail). Young American five-lined skinks are dark brown to black with five distinctive white to yellowish stripes running along the body and a bright blue tail. The blue color fades to light blue with age, and the stripes also may slowly disappear. The dark brown color fades, too, and older individuals are often uniformly brownish. The southeastern five-lined skink, P. inexpectatus, of the Southeastern United States is very similar to this species and there is some overlap in range. The two species can be distinguished by their scales.[5] The broad-headed skink, P. laticeps, is similar, and may be difficult to distinguish from P. fasciatus. The former species usually lacks the two enlarged postlabial scales characteristic of P. fasciatus.[6] Adult male broad-headed skinks, with their large size and swollen red head, are readily distinguished from P. fasciatus.[7]
Geographic range
Subadult with partly regrown tail pictured in parkland in Memphis, Tennessee

The range of the American five-lined skink extends in the north to southern Ontario, Michigan and eastern New York. The western border is in Minnesota, Missouri and eastern Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. P. fasciatus tends to be most abundant on the coastal plain in the southeastern United States and along the Gulf Coast. It has now been seen in increasing numbers in the northern Chesapeake Bay Region of Maryland particularly along the shores of the Elk River, and northern Virginia.[citation needed]

The American five-lined skink is a ground-dwelling animal. It prefers moist, partially wooded habitat that provides ample cover or inside walls of buildings, trees as well as sites to bask in the sun. It can also be found in broken, rocky areas at the northern edge of its habitat.

Fertilization in the American five-lined skink is internal, with eggs laid by the female between the middle of May and July, at least one month after mating. The mating season begins in May. The female Plestiodon will lay its eggs in June, and four to six weeks after the incubation, the young hatch. Thus the birthing process consists of laying eggs and external incubation.[8]

Females lay fifteen to eighteen eggs in a small cavity cleared beneath a rotting log, stump, board, loose bark, a rock, or an abandoned rodent burrow.[9] Females prefer secluded nest sites in large, moderately decayed logs. Soil moisture is also an important factor in nest selection. Females often place nests in regions where soil moisture is higher than in adjacent areas. Vertical position of the nest also varies with moisture, with nests located deeper in a soil cavity at dry sites. Even when nesting sites are not limited, a significant amount of aggregation occurs.

The parchment-like eggs of the American five-lined skink, similar to many other reptiles, are thin and easily punctured. Freshly laid eggs range from spherical to oval in shape averaging 1.3 cm (0.51 in) in length. Absorption of water from the soil leads to increased egg size. Egg coloration also changes over time, from white to mottled tan, after contact with the nest burrow. The incubation period ranges from 24 to 55 days, and varies due to fluctuations in temperature. Females typically brood their eggs during this time, exhibiting defensive behavior against smaller predators. Parental care ends a day or two after hatching when hatchlings leave the nest. Young American five-lined skinks, with a potential life span of up to six years, attain sexual maturity and begin reproducing within two to three years of hatching.[10]
Closeup of face

Adult male American five-lined skinks exhibit complex courtship and aggressive behavior. Although males tolerate juveniles and females in their territories, they actively defend these areas against other males. Vomeronasal analysis of chemical cues and recognition of sex-specific visual stimuli, including tail and body coloration, aid in the identification of gender. Evidence suggests that males may rely more on contact pheromones than volatile airborne molecules in the identification of conspecifics. Courting males grasp the necks of receptive females in their jaws after approaching them from the side. Using the tail to align cloacal openings, males initiate copulation by inserting one of the two hemipenes into the female's cloaca. Copulation events typically last four to eight minutes.

Female American five-lined skinks demonstrate high levels of parental care which reduces egg mortality. Females exhibit several brooding positions of variant contact levels with the body placed beside, over, through, or in a coil around the eggs. Brooding position varies according to soil moisture. Maternal body contact increases at lower moisture levels potentially reducing the transpirational loss of the eggs. In communal nests, females may alternate foraging and guarding of the nests, leaving eggs protected at all times. Females may also urinate in the nests and turn eggs to maintain humidity. In addition, females transfer heat from basking through body contact. Any eggs displaced from the nest are retrieved by head or snout rolling, and rotten eggs are eaten.

American five-lined skinks also exhibit antipredation behavior. In evasion of various predators including snakes, crows, hawks, shrews, moles, opossums, skunks, raccoons, and domestic cats, skinks may disconnect their entire tail or a small segment. Skinks run to shelter to escape their death as the disconnected tail continues to twitch. Skinks may also utilize biting as a defensive strategy.[10]

The common five-lined skink's diet consists primarily of a variety of arthropods, particularly spiders, crickets, beetles and other insects. However, they have been reported to also eat newborn mice, frogs, and other lizards. Those who own a pet skink are advised to supplement the skink's diet with fruits and vegetables. In addition to eating insects, skinks enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables. This can help supplement your skink's diet by adding some extra nutrients. Brussels sprouts, carrots, greens, and peas are good vegetables to serve your skink. Fruits that skinks enjoy include blueberries, mangos, raspberries, papayas, cantaloupes, strawberries, and figs.[11]
Conservation status

The Great Lakes - St. Lawrence population of P. fasciatus is listed as "special concern" in Ontario and Canada by COSSARO[12] and COSEWIC.[13] It is illegal to remove any of the three species of skinks found in Canada from their habitats. Skinks are at the extreme edge of their habitat range in Canada, which makes it an area of special interest to ecologists, as extreme conditions place unique evolutionary pressures upon species. The American five-lined skink has split into two phylogenetically-distinct populations in this edge habitat; the Carolinian population, also present in the United States, ends around Point Pelee National Park in southern Ontario. The Carolinian population is listed as "endangered" in Ontario and Canada by COSSARO,[12] COSEWIC,[13] The St. Lawrence / Great Lakes population resides in the Ottawa Valley in eastern Ontario and tends to be more tolerant to sparse or rocky conditions than its sister subspecies.[14]
Captive care

American five-lined skinks can be maintained in captivity with minimal care.[citation needed] Some U.S. states impose general restrictions on taking reptiles including native American five-lined skinks from the wild without a permit or hunting license, for example Maryland (no more than 4 may be possessed without a permit),[15] Indiana[16] and Ohio.[17]

A pair of skinks may live in a 25-30 US gallon terrarium, and may live for 5–10 years with adequate care.[18][19]


Hammerson, G.A. 2007. Plestiodon fasciatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2007: e.T64227A12756007. Downloaded on 06 September 2018.
Species Plestiodon fasciatus at The Reptile Database .
Stejneger, L., and T. Barbour (1917). A Check List of North American Amphibians and Reptiles. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. 125 pp. (Plestiodon fasciatus, p. 69).
Boulenger, G.A. (1887). Catalogue of the Lizards in the British Museum (Natural History). Second Edition. Volume III. Lacertidæ, Gerrhosauridæ, Scincidæ ... London: Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History). (Taylor and Francis, printers). xii + 575 pp. + Plates I-XL. (Eumeces quinquelineatus, pp. 369-370).
Breen, John F. (1992). Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Hong Kong: T.F.H. Publications.
Palmer, William M., Alvin L. Braswell, Renaldo Kuhler (1995). Reptiles of North Carolina. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-8078-2158-6.
Beane, Jeff (2006). "Love Skinks". Wildlife in North Carolina 70: 14-19. ISSN 0043-549X.
"Common five-lined skink - Plestiodon fasciatus ". Virginia Herpetological Society. Retrieved 2 August 2015
Harding, J. (1997). Amphibians and Reptiles of the Great Lakes Region. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press.
"Plestiodon fasciatus (Five-lined Skink)". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 19 May 2017.
"Common Five-lined Skink | State of Tennessee, Wildlife Resources Agency". Retrieved 2019-03-12.
"Species at risk in Ontario". 16 July 2014. Retrieved 19 May 2017.
Canada, Government of Canada, Environment. "Species Profile (Five-lined Skink) - Species at Risk Public Registry". Retrieved 19 May 2017.
Quirt, Kate C.; Blouin-Demers, Gabriel; Howes, Briar J.; Lougheed, Stephen C. (2006). "Microhabitat Selection of Five-lined Skinks in Northern Peripheral Populations". Journal of Herpetology. 40 (3): 335–342. doi:10.1670/0022-1511(2006)40[335:MSOFSI]2.0.CO;2.
"Captive Reptile & Amphibian Permit/License". Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
"Indiana's Reptile and Amphibian Regulations". Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
"Specialty Licenses & Permits". Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
"skinks - Care Sheets Information about Five lined skink". Repticzone. Retrieved 2016-03-12.

" Newt and Salamander Forum". Retrieved 2016-03-12.

Further reading

Behler, J.L., and F.W. King (1979). The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 743 pp. ISBN 0-394-50824-6. (Eumeces fasciatus, pp. 570–571 + Plates 427, 437, 443).
Conant, R. (1975). A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, Second Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. xviii + 429 pp. + Plates 1-48. ISBN 0-395-19979-4 (hardcover), ISBN 0-395-19977-8 (paperback). (Eumeces fasciatus, pp. 122–123, Figure 26 + Plate 19 + Map 75).
Linnaeus, C. (1758). Systema naturæ per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, diferentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio Decima, Reformata. Stockholm: L. Salvius. 824 pp. (Lacerta fasciatus, new species, p. 209). (in Latin).
Martof, Bernard S., et al. (1980). Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-8078-4252-4.
Powell, R., R. Conant and J.T. Collins (2016). Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, Fourth Edition. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. xiv + 494 pp., 47 plates, 207 figures. ISBN 978-0-544-12997-9. (Plestiodon fasciatus, pp. 307-308 + Plate 29 + Figures 113, 147, 148 + photo on p. 493).
Smith, H.M., and E.D. Brodie, Jr. (1982). Reptiles of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. New York: Golden Press. 240 pp. ISBN 0-307-13666-3. (Eumeces fasciatus, pp. 76–77).
Jensen, John B., Carlos D. Camp, Whit Gibbons and Matt J. Elliott (editors) (2008). Amphibians and Reptiles of Georgia. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press. 579 pp. (Five-lined Skink, p. 308). ISBN 0820331112.

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