Common Five-lined Skink
Plestiodon fasciatus

Common Name:

Common Five-lined Skink

Scientific Name:

Plestiodon fasciatus



Plestiodon is derived from the Greek words pleistos meaning "most" and odontos meaning "teeth". Plestiodon = Toothy Skinks.


fasciatus is derived from the Latin word fascia meaning "stripe" and the Latin suffix inus meaning "pertaining to"

Average Length:

5 - 8.5 in. (12.5 - 21.5 cm)

Virginia Record Length:

7.5 in. (18.8 cm)

Record length:

8.5 in. (21.5 cm)

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: This relatively medium-sized skink has maximum known snout-vent length (SVL) and total length of 86 mm (3.4 in.) and 215 mm (8.5 in.), respectively. The maximum known SVL and total length for Virginia are 77 mm (3.0 in.) and 188 mm (7.4 in.), respectively. The smooth, glossy, body scales overlap each other. Ten scales posterior to the vent, 12-19 scale rows are found around the tail. Width is greater than length in the subcaudal scales found along the midline of the underside of the tail. Supralabials are 7/7, 7/8, or 8/8; 1-2 enlarged postlabials, anterior to the ear, usually separate the posterior labial and temporal scales; and between the rostral and first supralabial entering the eye, the labials are usually 4/4 and occasionally 4/5 or 5/5. There are postnasals. There is a single mental, and there are two postmentals. Five white to cream colored stripes lie atop a background of dark brown to brownish-gray. The stripes run along the first half of an unbroken tail. Usually, the middorsal stripe forks posteriorly to the head, and the branches rejoin on the rostrum. Extending back along scale rows 3-4, the dorsolateral stripes start above the eyes. Passing through the ear and over the top of forelimbs and hind limbs, the lateral stripes start below the eyes. The dorsal color fades into the venter color below the lateral stripes *10760*.

SEXUAL DIMORPHISM: In a Virginia sample, the heads of adult males are larger than those of females. With age, adult males lose the stripes and become completely olive brown in color, while females never lose their stripes throughout their lives. The males heads turn orange to red during mating season. Juveniles: They have a darker body color of black, with the white lines present. The tail is a bright blue color and is brightest by the posterior region. The tail changes to brown-gray as the individual matures *10760*. Confusing Species: They are often confused with Eumeces inexpectatus and E. laticeps. In E. inexpectatus, the subcaudal scales of the midventral row are of approximately the same size as the other scales on the tail, plus the dorsolateral stripes run along scale rows 4-5. In E. laticeps, the adults are comparatively large (over 80 mm SVL) *10760*.

REPRODUCTION: Mating occurs in May and 6 to 12 eggs are laid in June which hatch 4 to 6 weeks later. The female guards the nest and turns the eggs daily *1014, 1021*. No parental care is given after hatching and one or more of the eggs may be eaten while the female broods them; eggs are layed in decomposing logs and communal nests have been found *10760*.

ORIGIN: This species is native.

BEHAVIOR: Individuals can be found under logs and boards that are decomposing, cracks in buildings, and snags. They escape by hiding under surface surface objects or in cracks, and they may go into water and hide under submerged objects; submerged objects. The juvenile's blue tail is used to draw predators away from the main portion of the body and will detach, the tail then twitches for a time after being lost to maintain the predators attention. Adult males often fight each other during mating season, initially they display to other males by pointing the snout down and tilting the head to the side, if intruders do not leave, the individuals tongue-flick to pick up the opponent's chemicals and bite each other on the head and throw each other in the air. Females are located by the males by following a scent trail *10760*.

References for Life History

  • 1014 - Martof, B.S., Palmer, W.M., Bailey, J.R., Harrison, III J.R., 1980, Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia, 264 pgs., UNC Press, Chapel Hill, NC
  • 1021 - Smith, H.M., 1946, Handbook of Lizards, 557 pgs., Comstock Publ. Co., Ithaca, NY
  • 10760 - Mitchell, J. C., 1994, The Reptiles of Virginia, 352 pgs., Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC
  • 11624 - Mitchell, J. C., 2001, Personal Communication, Expert review for GAP Analysis Project, Mitchell Ecological Research LLC


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Verified in 94 Counties/Cities.


Virginia is home to 28 species of frogs and toads.


We have a large diversity of salamanders consisting of 56 different species and subspecies.


Virginia is home to 9 native lizard species and two introduced species, the Mediterranean Gecko and the Italian Wall Lizard.


The Commonwealth is home to 34 species and subspecies of snake. Only 3 species are venomous.


Virginia has 25 species and subspecies of turtle. Five of these species are sea turtle.