Broad-Headed Skink (Plestiodon laticeps)
While performing a rare, threatened and endangered (RTE) plant species survey for a central Maryland client, Leslie and I came across a male broad-headed skink, in full/peak breeding color.
Note the obvious broad-head. They can be hard to tell apart from an adult male five-lined skink, but the main technical difference is that the broad-head has five labial scales and a five-lined has four labial scales (above the lip from the nostril opening, to the beginning of the eye). I had to invert a photo, enlarge it, and then count scales to confirm that the photos are that of the broad-head.
In reading from Amphibians and Reptiles of Delmarva, the author, James White states that “the broad-head is larger than the five-lined and has red jaws (jowls) that are swollen during breeding season, giving them a fierce countenance.” A broad-head skink can grow to 12-inches, which is near the size of this specimen.
Broad-head’s are uncommon (rarely seen) in Maryland. They are considered a mature forest species, being “arboreal” preferring to live in the trees and not on the ground, feeding primarily on insects. When approached by possible predators, they head for the nearest tree, climbing high and hiding in cavities when possible. When I pulled up the Maryland Amphibian and Reptile Atlas (MARA), I did note that my observation was within a few mapped, confirmed sightings.
Broad-head’s are a native southeastern species, occurring from southern Pennsylvania, through to mid Florida and west to Kansas and Texas.
I was able to take several photos, but once I entered his “personal space” he ran for it.