Creature Feature

Creature Feature – Five-Lined Skink

Posted by  //  July 18, 2022  //  Articles, Creature Feature

Although we picture lizards in desert landscapes or on exotic islands, New York is home to three lizard species. The most common one is the five-lined skink.

Five-lined skinks measure only 5-8 inches long, including their tail.  Their scales are smooth, giving them a shiny appearance.  Juveniles are black with cream-colored stripes and bright blue tails. These fade as they age, so older skinks are mostly brownish, although breeding males are orange around their jaws.  

Five-lined skinks are cold blooded.  To maintain an optimal body temperature, they absorb radiant heat by basking on rocks and logs. They favor moist habitats with ample cover, like logs, brush piles and abandoned structures.  In winter, they hibernate tucked in rocky crevices or buried under soil.

Skinks eat lots of spiders, crickets, beetles, flies, worms and grubs, helping to control populations of insects and other invertebrates.  Meanwhile, raptors, crows, snakes, foxes, opossums, skunks, raccoons, moles and shrews eat skinks.  In a bizarre survival mechanism, these lizards can spontaneously lose their tail, which thrashes on the ground, distracting the predator, and offering a window of escape.  A new, shorter tail eventually grows back.

During breeding season, male five-lined skinks defend their territory against other males.  Pregnant females lay their eggs in a nest under rotting stumps, boards or rocks, occasionally forming communal nests with other females.  Young skinks leave the nest a mere 1-2 days after hatching, ready to fend for themselves.

Article: Margie Manthey
Photo: Patrick Coin, Wikipedia

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