The five-lined skink is a lizard that mainly inhabits deciduous forests in the eastern and central United States. Its scientific name is Eumeces fasciatus and it is a member of the scincidae family of reptiles. The five-lined skink has a smooth, narrow body with a long tail, and its coloration changes greatly from the juvenile to the adult stage. Most adults have an overall coloration of brown or gray with five, faded stripes, while the young, five-lined skink is black with five distinct, light-colored stripes running along its length and an iridescent blue tail. The mature, five-lined skink can reach a length between 5 and 8.5 inches (12.7 to 21.5 centimeters), with the female’s length slightly shorter than the male’s.
Like other types of skinks, the five-lined skink has developed a unique method of escaping a predator’s clutches. When its tail is roughly handled, it breaks off easily. The broken tail squirms around, catching the enemy’s attention while the skink flees. This process isn’t injurious to the skink since a new tail regenerates. A new tail generally differs in size and color from the original tail, growing in a little smaller, with a lighter shade.
The five-lined skink lives mostly on the ground, although it can climb trees to chase insects. It is active during the day, feeding on spiders, insects, and larvae. Although it occasionally lies on a rock or log to warm itself in the sun, the five-lined skink spends most of its time sheltering under rocks, logs, and piles of forest debris.
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Approximately one month after fertilization, the female five-lined skink lays a clutch of anywhere from 4 to 15 eggs in sheltered locations such as rotten logs and stumps. These eggs range in shape from oval to round and have very thin shells. They average ½ inch (1.3 centimeters) in length. Incubation time is dependent on temperature and can take anywhere from 24 to 55 days. The eggs continue to grow larger throughout the period of incubation.
Females share in the care of the eggs, building a common nest so they can take turns, with some scavenging for food while others watch the eggs. The female skink only protects the newly hatched lizards for about a day, then walks away when the hatchlings are around two days old, leaving the young lizards to survive on their own. It is estimated that around half survive to maturity. Those that survive can live for up to six years.