Southeastern Five-lined, Skink Plestiodon inexpectatus
The Southeastern Five-lined Skink distribution across TN is poorly known. Occurs from Appalachian Mountains in southeast corner to Mississippi River in western coastal plain.
Description: A moderately large, shiny lizard (5.5 to 8.5 inches in length) with highly variable color pattern. Body color is usually brown or black with 5 white or yellowish stripes extending onto the tail. Middle stripe is often thinner than others. Adult males have brown or bronze backs and often lose the middle stripe; they also have reddish or orange coloration on the head during the breeding season. Adult females typically are more faded, but retain stripes and coloration. Juveniles have a bright blue tail and distinct stripes.
Similar Species: Easily confused with Broad-headed Skink and Common Five-lined Skink; positive identification can only be assured by examination of the scales. Broad-headed Skinks have 5 labial scales (along the upper lip between the nose and eye) and Common Five-lined Skinks have enlarged middle row of scales under the tail.
Habitat: Found in a variety of wooded habitats, but generally prefers drier sites than similar species. Often seen on fallen trees, limbs, stumps, logs, fences, and rock piles; will occasionally climb trees when threatened.
Diet: Mainly wide variety of insects, spiders, and other invertebrates.
Breeding information: Mating occurs in the spring. Females lay 3-8 eggs under rotten logs, stumps, rocks, or leaf litter during the spring or early summer. Females remain with the eggs during the 2-8 week incubation period.
Status in Tennessee: Very little information on population abundance or status.
- Both the five-lined skinks are mistakenly thought to be venomous.
Best places to see in Tennessee: Dry wooded sites with an abundance of fallen trees and limbs.