The Broadhead Skink
is a species of common lizards found in a limited range in the United States. Also
called broad-headed skink and red-headed scorpion, these lizards are
non-venomous and harmless and are abundantly found in the forests and
densely-vegetated regions. However, if attacked, cornered, or threatened, the large
or adult individuals can deliver a powerful bite or nip to even humans.
Size: The total length can be anything between 6 and 13 in (15 – 33 cm), with the males being larger than the females.
Weight: A healthy
adult can weigh around 70 g in an average.
Body: They have a
glossy body with very small scales all over. As sexual dimorphism, the sexes
are distinctly different from each other with the males being more colorful,
having a glossy brown to olive brown skin and the heads turning bright reddish orange
during the mating season, and the females having five faint stripes along the
back running down to the tail, (quite much like the five-lined skink).
Feet: They have
short legs with long digits that help them get a good grip of the branches while climbing.
The longevity of this skink in the wild is unknown. However,
they have been seen living for up to 8 years in captivity or as pets.
They are found only in the southeastern United States. The
most common range of the broadhead skinks is the Coastal Plain of Georgia and
South Carolina. They are also found in Piedmont
and lower mountains and are specifically common
in coastal maritime forest and on barrier islands.
They prefer living in leaf litters, decaying trees, moist
soil, old sawdust piles, or rotten logs.
Classification of Species
No subspecies the reptile has yet been classified by the
This skink species is the most arboreal of all the North
American plestiodons. However, when it
comes to foraging, they usually search for food at the ground level, but can also
climb up the trees for the same, or else, for shelter, or to sleep.
They are diurnal and
lead a solitary life except during mating season. During breeding, the males exhibit
territorial behavior and are often seen chasing away other males, mostly the smaller
ones. In winter, the northern population spends
almost half the year, i.e., between October and March, in hibernation.
There is not much information about their means of
communication. However, it is known that
they can visually distinguish between the male and the female, as also, can
detect the scent of pheromones. They can probably use these senses in perceiving
their environment in general as well.
These creatures are carnivores preferring mostly arthropods
for food, but prey on a wide range of creatures including insects, spiders,
mollusks, rodents, smaller reptiles, and even display some cannibalistic
behavior, consuming juveniles of its own
Reproduction and Life Cycle
With the arrival of the mating season, the female of the
species begins releasing chemical cues, called pheromones, while the males
smell this signal and follow the scent trails with the help of their flicking
tongue, and track the females for the purpose of
Broad-headed skinks can breed only once a year in late
spring. The females mostly prefer mating with males having a larger size and the
most brightly-colored orange heads available.
The female broadhead skinks lay 8 to 22 eggs in their nest in around June or July. Each egg weighs less
than one gram, and the mother remains with its eggs for until they hatch and only
moves out for foraging.
It takes between 3 to 8 weeks for the young broadhead skinks
to emerge in the summer, usually by September.
The hatchlings are around 3 in length and
are dark brown or black in color with
stripes on the body, and a characteristic blue tail.
The baby skinks are ready
to venture out of their nest within a few days. Juveniles attain the age of
sexual adulthood when they are around 75 mm in length.
Like many animal species,
their bright coloration, especially those with vibrant blue tails, are
believed to be indications for bad taste to predators.
The jaws of the big sized adults
are specifically powerful, a characteristic feature that allows them to overpower almost any invertebrate, and,
probably, even other lizards, as also, some small mammals.
Like many lizards, they
can get rid of their tail, if attacked. In such cases, the tail continues
to wiggle, thus distracting the predator, as the skink escapes usually climbing
into a nearby tree or hide under leaf debris.
The primary enemies of the broadhead skink are birds, larger
reptiles, and domestic cats.
The population of this species is stable, and the IUCN 3.1 has listed it as ‘LC’ (Least
Young individuals with blue
tails are nicknamed as ‘scorpions’ and are believed to have a venomous
sting by many people. However, this is a myth since no lizards in the
Southeastern US are dangerous to humans.
Together with the Great
Plains skink species, the broadhead skink is the largest member of the group
of Plestiodon skinks, and the second largest of all skink
Broadhead skinks get their
specific name Laticepes from the
Latin words latus meaning ‘broad’, and ceps