Five-lined Skink Great Lakes / St. Lawrence population
Scientific Name: Plestiodon fasciatus
Taxonomy Group: Reptiles
Last COSEWIC Assessment: April 2007
Last COSEWIC Designation: Special Concern
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Special Concern
|Five-lined Skink||Non-active||Special Concern|
Image of Five-lined Skink
The Five-lined Skink is a small lizard with smooth, shiny skin. This is the only lizard found in eastern Canada. The biggest individuals of this small and secretive species measure no more than 9 cm in length, excluding the tail. In Ontario, males are slightly bigger than females. Young skinks have a greenish-black body with five cream-coloured lines, which explains this species’ common name. They also have a bright blue tail, which is a distinctive trait of this species. Over time, the colour of the body changes, becoming uniformly bronze in both sexes, although females retain slightly more of the juvenile colouration than males. During the breeding season, the jaws of adult males turn orange. Some females may also have pink throats.
Distribution and Population
The Five-lined Skink occurs in the deciduous forests of eastern North America, from the Atlantic coast to Texas and Minnesota, and from southern Ontario to the Gulf of Mexico. In Canada, the species is confined to two distinct areas in southern Ontario. There are two known populations of Five-lined Skinks in Ontario: the Carolinian population, which concentrates near Lakes Erie, St. Clair, and Huron in southwestern Ontario; and the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence population, which occurs along the southern edge of the Canadian Shield, from Georgian Bay to Leeds and Greenville County in south-central Ontario. As lizards remain hidden throughout the major portion of the day, it is extremely difficult to estimate the sizes of these populations with any degree of accuracy. Between 1995 and 2004, about 84 populations were reported in the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence region where the total number of breeding individuals was estimated at 22 300. The number of populations in this region appears to fluctuate from year to year. Prior to 1984, 71 populations had been documented in this region. From 1984 to 1994, the number of populations increased to 115 and, from 1995 to 2004, it dropped to 84.
The habitat of the Five-lined Skink varies from region to region and includes rocky outcrops, dunes, fields, and deciduous forests. This species is generally associated with relatively clear areas where sunlight can reach the ground. Skinks from the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence population favour large rocky outcrops found within fields or mixed coniferous and deciduous forests. Young lizards mainly frequent open, well-drained, rocky areas where they seek shelter beneath rocks. The availability of suitable microhabitats is vitally important to these reptiles, as they continually take refuge under various shelters during their short foraging excursions. Objects that can provide protection from extreme temperatures and dehydration are an essential habitat element. Since the Five-lined Skink is prone to dehydration, its habitat must includes a permanent water body.
In Ontario, Five-lined Skinks often hibernate in small groups under tree trunks or rocks, and inside rotting stumps and wood. This lizard is active from mid-April to late September or early October. The Five-lined Skink is an active hunter which feeds mainly on insects and other invertebrates. Five-lined Skinks reach sexual maturity following their second hibernation at 21 months of age. While this skink is not a territorial species, males are often aggressive with other males during breeding season. A few weeks after mating, the female sets off to find a suitable nest site, which she often shares with other females. Female skinks from the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence population generally build their nests under rocks. Females lay 9 or 10 eggs, which they incubate until hatching in late July or early August. The female never leaves her nest unattended. The female will also defend her nest against predators, such as snakes, small mammals, and birds. Cats and dogs have also been known to attack Five-lined Skinks. Predators are attracted by the bright blue colouring of the tail. When an individual is attacked, the tail often detaches and continues to wiggle for a few minutes, providing a long enough distraction to allow the Skink to escape. The tail may eventually regenerate. Approximately one individual per clutch survives to breeding age. The average lifespan of the Five-lined Skink is five years.
In Ontario, this species is threatened by the destruction, fragmentation, and degradation of its habitat caused by the growth of the human population and increased recreational activities. Damage caused by ATVs and motorcycles led to the decline of a Canadian Shield population. The modification of microhabitats, such as rocks and plant debris, represents another major threat. Since the Five-lined Skink shows a strong association with particular microhabitat elements that can provide shelter, the destruction or degradation of these microhabitats could lead to a population decline. In the habitat of the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence population, most vegetation surrounding the rocky outcrops has disappeared leaving barren sand, and the loose rocks that this species used as cover have been removed so as not to hinder traffic. Although the illegal capture of these small lizards for sale as pets could threaten the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence population, the extent of the threat remains unknown. Finally, dogs, cats, Raccoons, and vehicular traffic also cause Five-lined Skink deaths.
Federal ProtectionMore information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.
In Ontario, the Five-lined Skink qualifies for special protection under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. Approximately 30% of the current populations (recorded or confirmed since 1995) in the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence region are afforded a certain degree of protection by virtue of the fact that they are on federal or provincial land. Five-lined Skinks in Georgian Bay Islands National Park and St. Lawrence Islands National Park are protected under the Canada National Parks Act.
Provincial and Territorial Protection
PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.
10 record(s) found.
- COSEWIC Status Reports (1 record(s) found.)
- Response Statements (1 record(s) found.)
- Action Plans (2 record(s) found.)
- Management Plans (1 record(s) found.)
- Orders (3 record(s) found.)
- COSEWIC Annual Reports (1 record(s) found.)
- Consultation Documents (1 record(s) found.)
COSEWIC Status Reports
COSEWIC Annual Reports
COSEWIC Annual Report - 2007 (2007)2007 Annual Report to the The Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
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