Friday, June 19, 2015

Five-Lined Skink!

Last week was the end of the salamander field season in Northern Ohio; the high temperatures had driven most of the Plethodontid salamanders completely underground, rendering them nearly impossible to find. With the field season over, the lab-based part of my summer job is about to begin. I have a few days off before I have to head back down to Athens, and I've spent many of those days exploring (surprise surprise). One of the locations I've visited so far is Cedar Bog Nature Preserve in Champaign County, Ohio.

Cedar Bog Ohio
Cedar Bog is indescribable; it is by far one of the most amazing, and unique, places I've been to in Ohio. There are several different types of ecosystems located there, but this post takes place in the scene above. This is a White Cedar swamp. Swamps are essentially a forested wetland, and in this case the dominant tree is the White Cedar, a rare tree in Ohio.

Five-Lined Skink male
I was walking quietly down the boardwalk when a tiny scurrying noise caught my attention. I assumed it was probably a snake so I began searching intently for it. After a few seconds, I noticed a tiny head staring at me. It was a skink! I froze and hoped that he would possibly come out for a better view...

Five-Lined Skink, Plestiodon fasciatus
Sure enough, he did. This is a Five-Lined Skink, Plestiodon fasciatus. This specific individual, with his bright orange head, is a male in breeding colors. You might have heard of this skink by another common name, the Blue-Tailed Skink, which refers to the bright blue tail that the juveniles have. The Five-Lined Skink is the most common of the 5 lizard species we have in Ohio. I've previously covered another Ohio lizard on this blog, the Eastern Fence Lizard, which you can read about here. Although this species is the most common in Ohio, it isn't an easy find by any means. Skinks are incredibly fast (they're some of the fastest lizards out there), and any that might be in the area will simply run quickly away from you if you're not quiet and paying close attention. I would have never seen this guy had I not been looking and listening for anything that might be in the area.

Male Five-Lined Skink
Eventually the curious little skink wandered out onto the boardwalk only a few feet away from me. This was the start of a 10 to 15 minute game of hide-and-seek-with-a-skink. The skink would wander out into the open for a few seconds, then run away and hide. A few seconds later he would reemerge from a new location somewhere within 5 feet of me. This cycle repeated over and over. A ground-dwelling species, this skink knew all the ins-and-outs of his territory and could have easily slipped away never to be seen if he wanted to. It was an interesting encounter to watch unfold; he was obviously interested enough in me to check me out, and also seemed to know that I wasn't an immediate threat to him. He would have been gone had he seen me as a real threat, but instead he kept coming back and watching me.

Five-Lined Skink Cedar Bog
The Five-Lined Skink probably lives in most, if not all, of the counties in Ohio; however, only about half the counties have official records of this species, which can often be hard to find. Records of this species are conspicuously missing from the central part of Eastern Ohio. This is a common theme with many reptile and amphibian species of Ohio. Counties such as Belmont, Harrison, Jefferson, and others in that immediate area are missing records of many species that are almost certainly there. These counties must not be heavily explored by surveyors. Southern Ohio is still your best bet to see this species, as well as Cedar Bog NP in Western Ohio.


  1. …loved this post! Cool photos of this fella. (I love Cedar Bog, too. I haven't been there this year. I need to get back!)

    1. Thank you! And Cedar Bog is a wonderful place. This was my first time, and I can't wait to go back.

  2. Wonderful post and lovely photos.

  3. I live by Grand lake St.marys in Mercer county Ohio. I was surprised to see an adult skink last week. This was the first time I had seen one in this part of Ohio. I'm 60 plus years old. Then today I saw a cute little baby one.