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Common Five-lined Skink

Plestiodon fasciatus

Family: Scincidae

COSEWIC status:
  • Endangered (Carolinian population)
  • Special Concern (Great Lakes / St. Lawrence population)
SARA status:
  • Endangered (Carolinian population)
  • Special Concern (Great Lakes / St. Lawrence population)
IUCN status:
  • Least Concern


Juvenile Five-lined Skinks have a black body with five cream-coloured stripes that run down the length of the back, as well as a bright-blue coloured tail. As individuals age, the stripes and bright-blue fade and adults become more uniformly bronze in colour. Females usually retain more of the juvenile patterning than males. During the spring breeding season, mature males develop orange colouration on the chin and jaws. Skinks have smooth, shiny scales, a pointed head, and short legs. Hatchlings are typically 2.5 cm in body length and individuals can reach a maximum body length of just over 8 cm, with the tail being approximately the same length.

Similar Species

No other native lizard species occur in Ontario. Salamanders have a similar body shape but lack the claws, scales, and external ear openings of lizards.


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Within Canada, the Five-lined Skink occurs in two separate regions of Ontario: 1) the Carolinian population, which occurs in a few small areas in southwestern Ontario, generally close to the northern shoreline of Lake Erie and the southern shoreline of Lake Huron, and 2) the Great Lakes / St. Lawrence population, which is found along the southern edge of the Canadian Shield from Georgian Bay eastward towards the St Lawrence River. Outside of Canada, the Five-lined Skink occurs in suitable habitats across much of the eastern United States from Vermont south to northern Florida and west to Minnesota and Texas.


In southwestern Ontario, Five-lined Skinks make use of open, often sandy habitat such as sparse mixed or deciduous forest, meadows, shorelines and stabilized dunes. In central Ontario they are typically found in rocky clearings within mixed or deciduous forest. Cover objects provide essential microhabitat features that are used for shelter and thermoregulation, and individuals spend much of their time under cover. Woody debris such as logs, boards or driftwood are commonly used for shelter in southwestern Ontario, while flat rocks are more commonly used in central Ontario. Females also lay their eggs under cover objects or in decaying trees or stumps. Home ranges are typically only a few hundred square metres in size. Five-lined Skinks hibernate underground below the frost line in mammal burrows, root hollows or cracks in the bedrock.


In Canada, Five-lined Skinks hibernate during the winter months and are active from April or early May until late September. Five-lined Skinks breed in the spring and females lay an average of 9 eggs in late June or early July. The female remains with the eggs until they hatch and aids in their development by defending them from predation and moving them around the nest to ensure optimal thermal and moisture conditions. She will also occasionally move the eggs to new nests following disturbance. The eggs hatch approximately 4–6 weeks after being laid and the young reach sexual maturity after their second winter. Individuals can live for 10 years, although very few live that long. Individuals eat a wide range of invertebrates, including insects and arachnids. When attacked by a potential predator (or handled by people), Five-lined Skinks may autotomize (drop) their tail, which continues to wiggle and create a distraction while the lizard escapes. Although the tail will eventually grow back, this is energetically costly and may negatively affect growth and survival.


Habitat loss, primarily from shoreline development, urban sprawl and clearing of land for agriculture, has led to the widespread loss of Five-lined Skink throughout most of its historic range in southwestern Ontario. The removal of important microhabitats such as shoreline debris, wood and loose rocks can also result in localized population decline. Although Five-lined Skinks are occasionally killed on roads, the severity of this threat is unknown. Subsidized predators—such as Raccoons occurring in unnaturally high densities in many areas of southern Ontario where humans have made food available—may result in increased predation pressure. Skink populations in southwestern Ontario are small and highly fragmented, making it more difficult for them to recover from declines. Climate change is a growing threat to this species, particularly in southwestern Ontario where shoreline habitat is being lost at an alarming rate due to the increased frequency and severity of storms and associated shoreline erosion, as well as rising Great Lakes water levels. Illegal collecting for the pet trade, either commercially or for personal use, may also be a threat to the small, isolated populations in southwestern Ontario.

Additional Information About This Species In Canada