Five-lined Skink (Plestiodon fasciatus)
This smooth-scaled skink varies in background coloration from near black to light tan. As the name suggests, five lighter stripes run from the head all the way onto the tail. In older individuals, these stripes may be nearly faded away. The belly is plain cream colored. Males develop orangish, enlarged cheeks during the breeding season. Juveniles have more contrast with a near black background, yellowish stripes, and bright blue tail.
This species looks very similar--if not identical--to other skink species found in Arkansas and examination of scales may be required to confirm identification. The Five-lined Skink has 2 postmental scales, 2 postlabial scales, and 7 upper labial scales (of which the 5th from the snout is in contact with the eye orbit). A postnasal scale is present.
As young, this species may be called a Blue-tailed Skink (a term shared amongst several skink species). It is also known as a Red-headed Skink.
This is a very common forest-dwelling species. It seems to prefer areas with some moisture and significant structure for hiding and basking. It is a resident of wood and rock piles, backyard decks, and even perhaps the side of your house!
This species is most likely to be seen as it basks on sunny, summer days. You may need to go no farther than your back window to see one or two on your wooden deck, back porch, or privacy fence. It can also be exposed from a hiding spot under a rock, log, board, or coiled garden hose.
Breeding occurs in the spring. Females will lay eggs and brood them until hatching. In early summer, it is not uncommon to turn up a log and find a mother skink coiled around a half dozen small eggs. In such cases, it is generally best to gently return the cover object to minimize the disturbance to the nest.
This species is diurnal and an active forager. It will alternate throughout the day between basking in the sun and hunting for its insect prey. Only prey that is easily subdued is taken.
If approached, this species will hide under some kind of cover, such as a rock or log, or it may climb and tuck around behind a tree trunk. It is a relatively good climber. If captured, it may try to bite. Care must be taken since the tail is easily detached. The detached pieces will wiggle, providing a distraction to any would-be predator. Although a new tail will be regenerated, a lot of energy is required for this process and a regrown tail will always be suboptimal to the original. A spied juvenile may display tail wagging behavior, presumably to focus a potential predator on its bright blue detachable tail.
This species currently holds no special status. It is a very common lizard species, even around human dwellings and disturbances.