These two five-lined skinks fought continuously on our deck for five minutes before one escaped over the edge. You can see a little of the battle in this Youtube video. Their orange heads identified them as males which were competing for territory. Why the orange head? In breeding season, the males develop their bright orange color, presumably as a way of attracting females. They fight other males aggressively to defend their territory and the females within it.
This could easily be confused with mating behavior. In courtship the male grasps the necks of a receptive female in his jaws after
approaching them from the side. "Using the tail to align cloacal
openings, males initiate copulation by inserting one of the two hemipenes into the female's cloaca. Copulation events typically last four to eight minutes."
In addition to sight, skinks rely on their vomeronasal or Johnson's organ to "taste" male chemicals. This organ is located at the base of the nasal cavity in all lizards and snakes. It is divided by the nasal septum, allowing the animal to know the "odor" comes from the right or left. This is what a snake is doing when it is flicking its tongue in and out as in this video. The tongue doesn't taste, it is transferring the odor to the Johnson's organ.
|Freshly hatched five-lined skink|
|"Now where did I leave my tail?"|
Young skinks have very prominent white stripes and a bright blue tail. Like many other lizards, five-lined skinks will break off its tail when it is grabbed. The tail will continue to thrash about vigorously, distracting the predator and allowing the lizard to escape. You can see this in action in this Youtube video. The skink will frequently regrow a smaller tail.
In the south, blue-tailed skinks are frequently referred to as "scorpions" and are believed to have a venomous sting. While this belief is completely false, maybe it will keep kids' hands off their tails.
Female skinks are very attentive mothers, guarding and nursing their eggs. They will frequently coil their body above or around the eggs to warm them. They will roll displaced eggs with their head and consume rotting eggs. They even urinate in the nest and turn the eggs to maintain humidity. No one has studied what the young skinks think of the last fact.