Broad-headed skinks (Plestiodon laticeps) are big lizards who live all over eastern and Midwestern areas of the United States -- think a wide swath from Illinois to Florida. Brown-headed skinks are independent and active in daytime. They're seen on tree branches, stumps and logs. They only ever interact with others for reproductive purposes.
Broad-headed skinks are usually between 6 and 12 inches long. Both their physiques and limbs are on the stubby side. In youth, these lizards' overall body coloring usually is black, brown or gray with subtle yellow, orange, off-white or white streaks. With physical maturity, male broad-headed skinks' coloration dulls to fully brown or gray; the females often hold onto their streaks. With aging, male specimens' heads also turn crimson or orange. Broad-headed skink youngsters start out with intense blue tails, although that coloring later subsides for both genders. These skinks are characterized by conspicuously broad heads.
In the habitat department, broad-headed skinks are versatile creatures with strong arboreal tendencies. They are generally drawn to woodsy and open environments. They often set up residence on the outskirts of damp woodlands. They enjoy being up within trees, but they do also frequent the forest floor. Broad-headed skinks occasionally reside in wetlands, as well.
Bugs make up most of what broad-headed skinks regularly eat, although they also eat a lot of snails and spiders. Outside of those meal staples, they also feed on fellow lizards. They occasionally display cannibalistic tendencies, tucking into juveniles of their own kind. Sizable members of the species boast tough jaws that enable them to have their way with most of their prey animals. Since broad-headed skinks feed so heavily on bugs, they can be beneficial for managing populations of pests.
During the summer months, female broad-headed skinks deposit a maximum of 22 eggs. They do so amidst decaying trees logs or heaps of foliage, or within damp soil. They closely keep an eye on the eggs until the little ones emerge, usually in September. Since the males are extremely territory-focused, fierce battles over access to females isn't at all a rarity. The females, for the most part, favor bigger males -- particularly those with intense orange head coloration.
Although broad-headed skinks possess formidable jaws, that doesn't deter their bigger predators. Some animals that frequently dine on these skinks are house cats, sizable reptiles and birds.
- Savannah River Ecology Laboratory Herpetology Program: Featured Herp - Broadheaded Skink
- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Plestiodon laticeps
- Savannah River Ecology Laboratory: Broadhead Skink
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Plestiodon laticeps
- Maryland Department of Natural Resources: Broad-Headed Skink
- Missouri Department of Conservation: Broad-headed Skink
- Tennessee's Watchable Wildlife: Broad-headed Skink
- Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries: Broad-Headed Skink
- Ohio Department of Natural Resources: Broad-Headed Skink
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