formerly Eumeces fasciatus
Five-lined Skink / Scinque pentaligne
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.
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
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.
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.
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.