Southeastern Five-lined Skink
Plestiodon inexpectatus

Common Name:

Southeastern Five-lined Skink

Scientific Name:

Plestiodon inexpectatus



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


inexpectatus is derived the Latin prefix in meaning "not" and the Latin word expectare meaning "expectation". This refers to the unexpected discovery of this skink in the well-known lizard fauna of North America.

Average Length:

5.5 - 8.5 in. (14 - 21.6 cm)

Virginia Record Length:

7.6 in. (19.4 cm)

Record length:

8.5 in. (21.6 cm)

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: This relatively medium-sized skink reaches known maximum snout-vent length (SVL) and total length of 89 mm (3.5 in.) and 216 mm (8.5 in.), respectively. The maximum SVL and total length known for Virginia are 79 mm (3.1 in.) and 194 mm (7.6 in), respectively. The smooth, glossy, body scales overlap each other. Around the midbody, scale rows number 27-32. Ten scales posterior to the vent, scales around the tail number 18-22. On the midventral tail, subcaudal scales are of the same size as other scales. Usually, supralabials are 7/7 or sometimes, other combinations of 6-8. Anterior to the ear, 1-2 postlabials usually separate the posterior labial scale and temporal scale. Between the rostral and the first supralabial, labial scales entering the eye usually are 4/4 or other combinations of 3-5. There are postnasals. There is a single mental and two postmentals. There are five lines that are orangish, white, or cream in color against a black to brown background, and these lines run the length of the body and about half that of the tail. Posterior to the parietal scales, the middorsal stripe forks. Then, on the snout, the forked middorsal stripe reunites. On the head, the stripes become reddish orange. Running along scale rows 4-5 to the tail, the dorsolateral stripe starts over the eye. Starting on the supralabials under the eye, the lateral stripe runs through the ear and along the body above the start of the hind limb and onto the tail. In axillary area, there may be sublateral light stripes. The color of the body fades laterally to the lighter ventral color. The venter varies in color from pale bluish to dark gray or even to nearly black on the posterior area. The anterior venter and chin are often white with a hint of orange. Subadults have a chestnut-colored temporal area. Originial tails vary in color from brownish gray to an almost purplish color, and regenerated tails are usually grayish brown in color. All tails are usually cream-colored ventrally *10760*.

SEXUAL DIMORPHISM: During the breeding season, the adult male's head is reddish-orange. The stripes of the male fade with age, however, those of the female remain throughout life. The head width and body size of the male are slightly larger than that of the female. *10760*

JUVENILES: On a black background, the young have five narrow light stripes. The stripes start as bright orange or reddish-orange on the head and change to yellow on the body and then bluish on the tail. A series of small spots may make up the dorsolateral stripes. Extending onto the body up to the start of the hindlegs is the bright blue color found on the tail *10760*.

CONFUSING SPECIES: This species is often confused with Plestiodon fasciatus and P. laticeps *10760*. These other two species have midventral subcaudal scales that are enlarged in that they are wider than they are long, and on scale rows 3-4, they have the dorsolateral stripe *10760*.

REPRODUCTION: In Virginia, mating times are unknown, but according to recorded observations of male's head becoming orange in color, mating dates probably occur in April and into early May. In Virginia, from early June to early July, eggs are layed in rotting logs and stumps and on the ground under decaying logs. Clutches range from 7 to 11 eggs. They seem to have only one clutch per year. Incubation period is unknown, but eggs have been found to hatch between 15 July and 2 August. Females stay with the nest until hatching occurs *10760*.

BEHAVIOR: This species overwinters in logs and deep within the cracks of man-made structures. Both starting and emerging from hibernation occur later in juveniles than in adults. During attempts to escape and hide under objects like logs, rocks, or bark, adults tend to run in an irregular pattern. The blue-colored tail of juveniles attracts the attention of predators, thus keeping their attention away from the main body area of the juvenile skink. Also, this tail will detach if the skink is captured. During the breeding season, males can identify each other by chemosensory investigation (tongue-flicking), and by doing so, they prevent unnecessary conflicts with interspecific males. Home ranges or large areas of these ranges are not defended by males. However, males have been found to defend specific sites or, on occasion, become aggressive with no concern over location *10760*. This species is found in a wide variety of habitats including dry pine woods, mixed pine-hardwood forests, lowland pine communities in early stages of succession, field and forest edges, urban or suburban woodlots, and around man-made structures. Commonly, this skink can be found under debris and logs, inside logs, and under bark. P. fasciatus and P. laticeps are more arboreal than this species. The majority of this species' prey includes invertebrates. Virginia specimens have been found having eaten the following prey items: ground beetles, other unidentified beetles, grasshoppers, wood roaches, caterpillars, wolf spiders, other unidentified spiders, and a centipede. In Virginia, there has been no systematic study on the diet of this species, nor have there been any records of predators of this species. A study in Alabama discusses the predation of eggs and juveniles of this species by introduced fire ants. Introductions of fire ants have been found in the Coastal Plain of Virginia, and this could be a threat to this species *10760*.

References for Life History

  • 10760 - Mitchell, J. C., 1994, The Reptiles of Virginia, 352 pgs., Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC


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Verified County/City Occurrence

Alleghany County
Botetourt County
Brunswick County
Buchanan County
Charles City County
Chesapeake City
Chesterfield County
Cumberland County
Fairfax County
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Greensville County
Hampton City
Henrico County
Hopewell City
Isle of Wight County
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King and Queen County
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Petersburg City
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Richmond County
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Surry County
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Virginia Beach City
Westmoreland County
York County
Verified in 40 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.