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Canadian Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Network - Réseau Canadien de 
Conservation des Amphibiens et des Reptiles

Plestiodon fasciatus

formerly Eumeces fasciatus

Five-lined Skink / Scinque pentaligne

Five-lined Skink

The Five-lined Skink is a smooth, slender lizard that can reach 81 cm snout-vent length. Colouration varies depending on the age. Juveniles and young adult females are glossy black with five cream stripes on the back and bright blue to grey tail. The belly is creamy white. Males and older females gradually fade in colour to a uniform bronze. Males in breeding condition have a bright orange chin and jaw.

Confusing Species
No other lizards are found in Ontario. However, the Prairie Skink and Western Skink are similar. Both of these species have only four cream or white stripes although they may have a tan or light brown stripe down the centre of the back where the fifth stripe would be on a Five-lined Skink.

In Canada this species is found only in southern Ontario from the southern edge of the Canadian Shield south to Point Pelee National Park. It is widely distributed in the eastern US as far south as Texas and Florida.

Along the Lake Erie shoreline, skinks are found in open forests and small meadows on stabilized sand dunes. Along the southern edge of the Canadian Shield they are found in open forests on rock outcrops.

Breeding occurs in May and early June. In 4-8 weeks, females lay 2-15 eggs in a nest excavated under cover or within a rotting log. Several females may nest together and they attend the eggs until they hatch in late July or early August. The hatchlings are approximately 3 cm in body length at this time.

Natural History
Five-lined Skinks eat a wide variety of invertebrates such as insects, spiders and worms. They hunt in leaf litter and woody debris, tracking prey with their keen sense of smell. On cool sunny mornings they can be seen basking in the sun but most often they are found hiding under cover. They will also climb trees to hunt, bask or escape predators. If a Five-lined Skink is caught by the tail, the tail will break off and begin to thrash about. The moving tail should occupy the would-be predator while the lizard escapes. Over time, it will grow a new tail.

Conservation Concerns
Because of their striking colours, Five-lined Skinks are prized as pets. Over-collecting has reduced populations in some parts of their range. Numbers are also reduced in parks where patrons remove or burn woody debris -- important habitat for skinks. Each of the two geographically distinct populations in Ontario has been designated by COSEWIC. The Carolinian population (south-western Ontario) has been designated Endangered, while the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence population (central Ontario on the Canadian Shield) has been designated Special Concern.