Wild Profile: Meet the five-lined skink

A five-lined skink By James DeBoer/Shuterstock

If it looks like a salamander, sometimes it’s actually a lizard. Example: the five-lined skink, a.k.a., Eastern Canada’s only lizard. Like all lizards, the skink has claws and scaly skin (salamanders don’t). This skink’s other notable features are, of course, the yellow lines and electric blue, detachable tail that it sports as a youngster.

Detachable? Yup: if a baby skink is caught by the hind end—by a snake, shrew, or hawk, say—the tail breaks off and continues to move on its own, sometimes for several minutes. (Remember Thing, the disembodied hand from the Addams Family? A little like that, except the tail can’t run or play the piano.) The wriggling, thrashing appendage distracts the would-be predator and gives the skink time to escape. No tail is no problem—a new one grows in its place, at the rate of about half a centimetre per week. 


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