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Southeastern Five-lined Skink

Southeastern Five-lined Skink
Plestiodon inexpectatus

Distribution across TN is poorly known. Occurs from Appalachian Mountains in southeast corner to Mississippi River in western coastal plain.

Description: A moderately large, shiny lizard (5.5 to 8.5 inches in length) with highly variable color pattern. Body color is usually brown or black with 5 white or yellowish stripes extending onto the tail. Middle stripe is often thinner than others. Adult males have brown or bronze backs and often lose the middle stripe; they also have reddish or orange coloration on the head during the breeding season. Adult females typically are more faded, but retain stripes and coloration. Juveniles have a bright blue tail and distinct stripes.

Similar Species: Easily confused with Broad-headed Skink and Common Five-lined Skink; positive identification can only be assured by examination of the scales. Broad-headed Skinks have 5 labial scales (along the upper lip between the nose and eye) and Common Five-lined Skinks have enlarged middle row of scales under the tail.

Habitat: Found in a variety of wooded habitats, but generally prefers drier sites than similar species. Often seen on fallen trees, limbs, stumps, logs, fences, and rock piles; will occasionally climb trees when threatened.

Diet: Mainly wide variety of insects, spiders, and other invertebrates.

Breeding information: Mating occurs in the spring. Females lay 3-8 eggs under rotten logs, stumps, rocks, or leaf litter during the spring or early summer. Females remain with the eggs during the 2-8 week incubation period.

Status in Tennessee: Very little information on population abundance or status.

Fun Facts:

  • Both the five-lined skinks are mistakenly thought to be venomous.

Best places to see in Tennessee: Dry wooded sites with an abundance of fallen trees and limbs.

For more information:

Atlas of the Reptiles of Tennessee

The Lizards of Tennessee web site


Conant, R. and Collins, J. 1998. Peterson Field Guides: Reptiles and Amphibians (Eastern/Central North America). Houghton Mifflin Company, New York. 616pp.

Jensen, J. B., Camp C. D., Gibbons, W., and Elliot, M. J. 2008. Amphibians and Reptiles of Georgia, University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA. 575pp.