Broadhead skink

Broadhead skink

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Broadhead skink

The broad-headed skink or broadhead skink (Plestiodon laticeps) is species of lizard, endemic to the southeastern United States.

Broadhead skinks are the largest skinks in our region.  Adults are usually olive-brown, and males have orange-red heads which fade by early summer.  Adult females are often striped, resembling adult five-lined skinks. The young are dark brown or black with five, sometimes seven, yellow stripes and bright blue tails. Broadhead skinks can be distinguished from five-lined skinks by larger size and five labial (lip) scales rather than four.

Scientific classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Order: Squamata
  • Family: Scincidae
  • Genus: Plestiodon
  • Species: P. laticeps
  • Binomial name: Plestiodon laticeps

Biology

Broad-Headed Skinks are largely arboreal and, in Virginia, inhabit open forested areas. They are most common in open, mature pine stands and in open stands of mixed hardwood-mostly live and turkey oak and loblolly and Virginia pines.

sThey have also been found on houses and barns in wooded areas. In South Carolina, these skinks were most abundant in stands of live oak (Vitt and Cooper, 1985a, 1985b). This skink prefers a more xeric habitat than P. fasciatus. All of the known Virginia specimens were collected April through August. Winter aggregations in underground retreats were found in Alabama. The seasonal activity of this skink and the nature of its changes in habitat use between seasons are unknown.

Habits

Although they may be found both on the ground and in trees, broadhead skinks, particularly large males, are more arboreal (tree-dwelling) than any of the other southeastern skinks. Adults are often seen high up in trees, sunning on exposed branches, while young are common on fallen trees and under bark or other debris.

When pursued, broadhead skinks generally run for the nearest tree or log and can be quite difficult to capture. Like many other lizards, broadhead skinks will break off their tails when restrained, distracting the predator and allowing the lizard to escape.

Physical Description

The bodies of adolescents extend from brown to black, in which there are five to seven stripes on the dorsal side. These stripes change from white to light orange, which is a trend on the Wild Blue on the tail. If a teenager is attacked, the bright blue tail breaks away and disturbs the predator. Males become identical brown color by sexual maturity, lose all their stripes.

Their head becomes reddish orange and increases both size and vibrations during the mating season. Broad-headed skins are the second largest skin species, and men reach 324 millimeters. Adult females keep some of their belt color, but do not have blue stripes on their tails.

Diet

Broadhead skinks typically eat arthropods grasshoppers, butterflies, cockroaches, and small beetles and may occasionally eat earthworms.

Broadhead skink images

Broadhead skink

Broadhead skink

Broadhead skink

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