broad-headed skink (Plestiodon laticeps)


This large skink reaches maximum snout-vent lengths of 5.6 in. (143 mm) and maximum total lengths of 12.8 in. (324 mm). Like other skinks, its scales are smooth, shiny, and overlapping. There are 5 white to cream lines on a background ranging from all brown to black, sometimes with two light stripes along the sides, for a total of 7 stripes. Some individuals lack the stripes and are solid brown. The head is dark with reddish-orange stripes in the juvenile, duller reddish-orange or no stripes in the adult. The tail will break off at the tip if the skink is captured or threatened by a predator. The original tail has 5 light stripes on a gray-brown surface, and a regenerated tail is brownish or grayish. This skink lays 6-15 eggs in June or July, which hatch in September. Females lay only one clutch a year in a decaying log. The female encircles the nest with her body.


This species has a broad distribution in the coastal plain and piedmont regions. Isolated populations have been found north of the New River watershed in the ridge and valley region. This skink is often on trunks or branches of trees in open forests, most commonly in mature pines and mixed hardwoods (mostly live and turkey oak and loblolly and Virginia pine).


This skink feeds primarily on invertebrates, such as insects, snails, and amphipods, but will also eat lizards, including the young of their own species.