Most people would choose a conventional pet, like a puppy or a cat, over the unconventional choice of a reptile. But if you are one of the select few who are passionate about reptile pets, the blue-tailed skink is the perfect choice. PetPonder reveals some interesting facts about the blue-tailed skink lizard.
The Blue-tailed skink discards its own bright blue tail during an attack to distract the predator and allow the skink to escape.
The blue-tailed skink lizard, commonly known as the five-lined skink, is a species of lizards native to North America. They are characterized by their bright blue tails and the vertical yellow stripes on their body. They are cylindrical, highly flexible lizards that have scales on their body. These lizards, like most other lizards, display autotomy. It is the process by which the lizard discards its own tail in the presence of predators to increase its chance of survival. Similar to other reptiles, these lizards are also cold-blooded, meaning that their body temperature fluctuates according to the environmental temperature as they cannot regulate it themselves. They are generally terrestrial, but can also be found on trees occasionally. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed this species of lizards as Least Concern.
Juvenile Blue-tailed Skink
Female Blue-tailed Skink
Male Blue-tailed Skink
Red coloration on chin and jaw of male skink during mating season.
The blue-tailed skink is a smooth and slender species of lizards that can grow up to a maximum length of about 20 cm. They have a brown-black coloring with yellow stripes vertically across their body spanning from their snout all the way till the end of the tail. The tails are bright blue in color. The coloration on these lizards undergoes changes as they mature into adults. In case of females, the contrast of the body color decreases, and the tail turns from bright blue to grayish blue. In the case of males, the vertical stripes fade away leaving a brownish body and tail color. During mating, the males develop an orange-red color on the head and neck region.
➤ Tip: While their bright blue tails and yellow vertical stripes are indication enough, these lizards can also be identified by the row of tiny scales around the center of their body and under the tail.
Habitat and Location
Their preferred choice of habitat is a rocky terrain with a bit of shrub cover. This type of habitat provides the lizards with plenty of food source and hiding places. Their habitats usually also include free sunlit spaces where they can bask in the sunlight to increase their body temperature. They also prefer habitats that have rotting wood due to the abundance of insects it attracts.
➤ Tip 1: While setting up a container for the blue-tailed skink, make sure it is placed in a well-lit location.
➤ Tip 2: Make sure that the container can be locked so as to prevent the escape of lizards.
➤ Tip 3: Cover half the tank floor with moss or other such plant material and the other half with a shallow water pool encircled by sand. The water should have a good filtering mechanism.
➤ Tip 4: Alternatively, sticks, flowers, and wood can be added to the moss-covered area to give the lizards something to climb onto. Or hills can be created by laying the moss in layers.
➤ Tip 5: Try putting 2 – 3 skinks together. If they live in harmony, you can try adding more. But in case they turn aggressive, separate them as soon as possible.
They are foragers who mainly feed on insects such as ants, spiders, grasshoppers, flies, caterpillars, snails, crickets, worms, beetles, and even small mice.
➤ Tip: Feed the lizards food depending on their size. Younger and smaller lizards can be fed ants, worms, centipedes, and flies, whereas the adult, larger lizards can be fed spiders, grasshoppers, and beetles.
➤ Tip 2: Feed only sufficient quantities that can be consumed within a few minutes. Do not overfeed.
Life Cycle and Reproduction
During the mating season around April-May, the males develop a red coloration on their chins and jaws, and also their heads appear broader. The males rely on chemical cues to identify receptive females. Once a female is identified, the male approaches her from the sides and then clasps her jaws around her neck. Using the tails, the male aligns its cloacal openings and initiates copulation that usually lasts for around 4 – 10 minutes. The lizards are oviparous, i.e., egg-laying animals, and the eggs are fertilized internally during mating.
The females form a nest by burrowing close to areas with high soil moisture and with abundant food source. The females lays 15 to 18 thin, fragile eggs at a time. The eggs range from being spherical to oval and are about 1 – 2 cm in length. The size and color of the eggs change over time due to contact with the surroundings. The size increases by absorbing the soil moisture, and the color changes from white to a tan color due to its contact with the soil and the nest. The eggs can take from 20 – 60 days to hatch depending on the environmental temperature. The colder it is, the more time the eggs will take to hatch. The female mothers display a defensive brood behavior while watching over her batch of eggs and protecting them from any viable predators. Parental care is exhibited only till about 2 – 3 days after the eggs hatch, after which the new hatchlings or juveniles are free to forage for food on their own. The juveniles reach sexual maturity within two years after their birth, and start procreating and producing offspring. The average lifespan of these lizards is approximately 6 – 7 years.
➤ Tip 1: During the mating season, the blue-tailed skinks can get aggressive and may bite you upon handling. In such a case, wash your hands immediately to prevent an infection.
➤ Tip 2: Provide an environment where they would be able to create nests and lay their eggs.
➤ Tip 3: You could let nature take its course with regard to the hatching of eggs, or you could intervene and transfer the eggs gently into an egg incubator for them to hatch.
➤ Tip 4: Do not be alarmed to see them eating their own eggs. It is normal for them to devour rotten and unhatched eggs.
Blue-tailed skinks are easy to care for and do not require much maintenance. Hence, they make very good pets. However, in some states, it is illegal to take wild skinks without a permit or hunting license. So, make sure you check up on the rules and regulations of your state before bringing home one of these unique creatures.