Broad-headed Skink
Plestiodon laticeps

  • Broad-headed Skink
  • Broad-headed Skink - Male Combat
Broad-headed Skink1 Broad-headed Skink - Male Combat2

Common Name: Broad-headed Skink
Scientific Name: Plestiodon laticeps (Broad-headed Skink) formerly Eumeces laticeps
Etymology:
Genus: Plestiodon is derived from the Greek words pleistos meaning "most" and odontos meaning "teeth". Plestiodon = Toothy Skinks.
 Species: laticeps is derived from the Latin word latus meaning "broad" and Latin suffix ceps meaning "head".
Average Length: 6.5 - 12.8 in. (16.5 - 32.4 cm)
Virginia Record Length:  11.3 in. (28.7 cm)
Record length: 12.8 in. (32.4 cm)

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: This is a relatively large skink whose known maximum snout-vent length (SVL) and total length are 143 mm (5.6 in.) and 324 mm (12.8 in.), respectively. The maximum SVL and total length known in Virginia are 122 mm (4.8 in.) and 287 mm (11.3 in.), respectively. Smooth, shiny body scales overlap each other. Around the midbody, scale rows number 28-32. Ten scales posterior to the vent around the tail, scale rows number 16-20 (most are over 16). Width is greater than the length of the midventral row of subcaudal scales. Supralabials are 8/8, 8/7, or 7/7. The posterior labial scale is positioned far enough back that it is against the cresent-shaped temporal scale that lies above the ear. Between the rostral and first supralabial entering the eye, labial scales are 5/5, 4/5, or 4/4. This species has postnasals. There is also a single mental, and there are two postmentals. Coloration consists of five white to cream lines on a background that ranges from brown to black, some individuals have no stripes. Two sublateral light stripes may be seen making a total of seven lines. Usually, juveniles have a dark head with reddish-orange stripes, and adults have reddish-orange on the head but with no stripes or faded stripes. Especially on adults, the dorsolateral fields are often lighter than lateral fields. The middorsal stripe forks posterior to the head and meets again on the rostrum. Extending along scale rows 3-4, the dorsolateral stripes begin above the eyes. Passing through the ears and above origins of forelimbs and hind limbs, the lateral stripes start on the supralabials scales (below the eyes). The dark background color of the dorsum fades into the lighter ventral color below the lateral stripes. The ventral surface between the limbs varies from cream to gray-blue, while the rest of the venter and other ventral surfaces are cream. Lighter stripes of the adults are often outlined with a thin black line. The five light stripes fade distally into solid gray-brown on an original tail, and a regenerated tail is brownish or grayish *10760*.

SEXUAL DIMORPHISM: Adult females are smaller than males. Also, the head of the adult male is wider. Scale rows around the midbody and the tail (10 scales posterior to the vent) show no sexual dimorphism. As they age, males lose the stripes of the tail and body and turn to a consistant brown with a brownish-gray tail. The temporal region becomes enlarged and bright orange during the mating season for the male (during the spring) and fades and reduces in size during other times of the year. Females maintain the stripes for life, they do fade some with age *10760*.

JUVENILES: Hatchlings are black to dark brown, head stripes are orangish and the body stripes are cream to orange tinted. Some individuals have sublateral stripes. The tail is blue and the stripes are also blue, the blue color is kept until they are sexually mature *10760*.

CONFUSING SPECIES: This species can be confused with P. fasciatus and P. inexpectatus. It is hard to tell the difference between P. fasciatus and P. laticeps because there is so much overlap in scale characters and color/pattern. P. fasciatus has 4/4 preorbital supralabials, and P. laticeps has 7/7, 8/7, or 8/8. Scale rows that are 10 scales posterior to to the vent number 14-16 on P. fasciatus and 16-20 on P. laticeps. P. laticeps maintains blue tail until mature, while P. fasciatus loses the blue when it reaches 52-55mm SVL *10760*.

REPRODUCTION: This skink lays 6-15 eggs in June or July which hatch in September *1014*. Females are oviparous and lay only one clutch a year and eggs are laid in decaying logs or stumps. She creates a cavity in which she lays the eggs and then packs debris around the cavity to form a nest. The female circles the nest with her body to protect it. Whenever leaving the nest, the female creates and opening by pushing through the debris. She circles around the nest again when she returns and then recloses the opening *10760*.

BEHAVIOR: They prey on invertebrates and some vertebrates and forage in and under the leaf litter, as well as in trees. They use chemosensory and visual cues to hunt for prey. Escape from predators is made by climbing trees, swimming, or hiding under debris. Females leave a scent trail from a gland on the tail when they are receptive *10760*.

ORIGIN: This species is native *883,949,1008,2065*.

References for Life History

Photos:

*Click on a thumbnail for a larger version.

Fairfax Co. Broad-headed Skink (top) vs. Five-lined Skink (bottom) Male Combat
First Landing
State Park

 


 

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