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Common Five-lined Skink

Common Five-lined Skink
   Photo: © ROM

Features: The Common Five-lined Skink (Plestiodon fasciatus) is a small, smooth-bodied lizard, with black or grey colouring and five white or yellow stripes along the back. The colour pattern diminishes with age as the stripes darken, and the contrast is less apparent in adults. Juveniles have bright blue tails, but this also diminishes with age. In adults, the tail is grey. Adult males can be distinguished from females by their broader heads and bright orange jaws and chin. Adults can reach a length of 20 centimetres. Skinks are very active predators, and they dart quickly from place to place looking for insects, worms or other invertebrates.

The Common Five-lined Skink is Ontario’s only species of lizard, and it is split into two series of populations with distinct habitat preferences. The Carolinian populations, which are Endangered Provincially and Nationally, occur in Carolinian forest and prefer wooded habitat with sandy soil and ground cover. They use woody debris as shelter and hibernate by burying themselves in the soil. The Great Lakes/St. Lawrence populations, which are Special Concern Provincially and Nationally, occur on the southern part of the Canadian Shield. Preferred habitat is on rocky outcrops in mixed coniferous and deciduous forests, where they can seek refuge from the elements and predators in rock crevices and fissures.

Status: Special Concern/Endangered Provincially and Nationally

Range: The Common Five-lined Skink occurs in eastern North America, ranging from the Gulf of Mexico north to the lower Great Lakes and east to the Atlantic coast. In Ontario, the Carolinian population is comprised of 4-5 completely isolated populations on the shores of lakes Erie, St. Clair and Huron; the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence population is comprised of approximately 84 populations that occur on the southern Canadian Shield, from Georgian Bay east to the St. Lawrence River.

Threats: The biggest threat to Carolinian populations of Common Five-lined Skinks is destruction of habitat. Agriculture and urban development have drastically reduced the range of Carolinian forests, while development of land for cottages and recreational trail use has impacted the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence region. Illegal collecting for the pet trade is a threat to remaining populations, as are dogs, cats, raccoons, and road mortality.

Protection: There is no formal protection for this species in Ontario. There are skink populations in Ontario's national and provincial parks.

Text Sources: COSEWIC 2007; Seburn and Seburn 1998

Last Modified Date: June 2010

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