by Emma Reid
On kayak tours in Manchac and Honey Island you may spy a shiny dark lizard with red stripes and possibly a blue tail crawling up a Cypress tree. These are actually called five-lined skinks and they are not very common. Males develop a widened head and reddish-orange coloration of the snout and jaws during the spring breeding season.
Five-lined Skinks act as a food source for their predators and help to control insect and other invertebrate populations.
They can live up to 6 years in the wild, although most probably die as young skinks, before reaching maturity. Five-lined Skinks are mostly active during the day, taking refuge at night. They find protected areas, such as under logs or other debris, to stay through the winter in a state of suspended animation. Males actively defend small territories against other males. Five-lined Skinks are mainly solitary but females may cooperate to guard their eggs.
Five-lined skinks are generally insectivorous, feeding on spiders, millipedes, crickets, termites, grasshoppers, caterpillars, beetles, and beetle larvae. They may also consume snails, as well as small vertebrates including frogs, smaller lizards, and newborn mice.
Five-lined Skinks use their vision and their ability to detect chemicals (pheromones) to determine the sex of other skinks.
Five-lined skinks occur in small, isolated populations in parts of their range. These populations are especially vulnerable to habitat destruction or natural catastrophes and may become extinct in those areas.