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Lizards of Wisconsin

red chin on male skink during breeding season

The red chin on this male skink lets you know
that it's breeding season.

Skin

Lizards, like snakes, are covered with dry scaly skin. Scales help reduce water loss and increase a lizard's ability to take in solar heat. The two species of skinks in Wisconsin both have shiny, similar-sized overlapping scales covering their bodies. The prairie racerunner has small body scales and large, rectangular belly scales that are like those found on snakes. The slender western slender glass lizard has small scales containing bony plates. This gives extra protection to its limbless body.

Most lizards have patterns that help them to blend in with their surroundings. Some species, such as the five-lined skink, undergo a change in pattern as they mature.

Many male lizards undergo color changes on parts of their bodies during the breeding season. In Wisconsin, male five-lined skinks develop orange-red colored heads; male northern prairie skinks develop bright orange throats, lips, and chins; and male prairie racerunners turn a bluish color on their chins and bellies. It's all a way to draw attention. These bright colors are used to warn other males that a breeding territory is taken and to attract females. Some lizards, like chameleons and anoles are known for their rapid color-changing abilities.

skink shedding skin

Most lizards shed their skin in patches.

Lizards shed their skin periodically during the active season. Slender glass lizards often shed their skin in one piece, like snakes, but most lizards shed their skin in patches. A lizard may rub itself against objects to loosen the old skin, and some lizards eat their shed skin for its nutrients. The new skin is vividly colored, but in time the color fades and eventually the old skin cracks in spots. This signals the start of a new shed cycle.

Continue Reading about Lizards of Wisconsin:
Eggs & Stuff and What's on the Menu >>



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