Tennessee is home to various lizards, both native and invasive species. This article will discuss 8 of the state’s most common and important types of lizards. These include skinks, fence lizards, and other lizards inhabiting Tennessee.
We will discuss each species in depth with information on their scientific name, size, diet, habitat, and geographic range within the state.
Lizards in Tennessee
While there are only a handful of well-known species of lizards in Tennessee, there are a few other non-invasive species. However, most of these are only confined to a small area of the state. Let’s dive into the reptile world of Tennessee and explore the various species of lizards that call this state home.
1. Common Five-lined Skink
- Scientific Name: Eumeces fasciatus
- Size: Males grow to 8 inches long while females reach 4-5 inches long.
- Diet: Omnivorous; they eat insects, spiders, slugs, snails, earthworms, vegetation, and small vertebrates like frogs and other lizards.
- Habitat: Found near moist areas such as woodlands or grasslands with plenty of cover such as logs or rocks; they also prefer areas with loose soil for burrowing.
Found throughout most of Tennessee, including the east Tennessee mountains and central and western parts of the state. The five-lined skink is one of the most common lizards found in Tennessee due to its wide geographic range throughout the state.
They are easily recognizable by their distinctive stripes along their back, which can be either yellow or brown depending on age or season. Juveniles have bright blue tails that fade to yellow when they reach adulthood.
They are active both day and night but more active during daylight hours when hunting for food. They can be found near woodlands or grasslands with plenty of cover, such as logs or rocks to hide under from predators; they also prefer areas with loose soil for burrowing into when threatened by predators or cold temperatures.
2. Ground Skink
- Scientific Name: Scincella lateralis
- Size: 3-5 inches
- Diet: Insects and small invertebrates
- Habitat: Forests, fields, and urban areas
The Ground Skink is a small, slender species found in Tennessee’s forests, fields, and urban areas. They are characterized by their uniform brown or gray coloration with a light-colored belly. These lizards feed on insects and small invertebrates and are often seen hiding under rocks or leaf litter.
3. Southeastern Five-lined Skink
- Scientific Name: Plestiodon inexpectatus
- Size: 5-7 inches
- Diet: Insects, spiders, and small vertebrates
- Habitat: Forests, fields, and rocky areas
The Southeastern Five-lined Skink is a small species found in Tennessee’s forests, fields, and rocky areas. They are characterized by their bright blue tail and five distinct stripes on their back. These lizards feed on insects, spiders, and small vertebrates and are often seen basking in the sun on rocks or logs.
4. Eastern Fence Lizard
- Scientific Name: Sceloporus undulatus
- Size: Males grow up to 5 inches while females reach 3-4 inches long. Males have bright blue patches on their bellies, while females do not have this feature.
- Diet: Insectivorous; they feed mostly on insects like grasshoppers but occasionally eat spiders and other arthropods like millipedes or centipedes.
- Habitat: Usually found near rocky outcrops like cliff sides where there is plenty of sunlight for basking during the day and enough shade from trees for protection from predators at night, they also prefer open habitats over closed forests due to the higher presence of prey species like insects in open habitats.
The eastern fence lizard is one of Tennessee’s most commonly seen lizards due to its wide geographic range throughout most parts of the state, including the east Tennessee mountains and around the Nashville area in the central part of the state.
Eastern Fence Lizard can easily be recognized by their distinctive stripes along their back, which can be either black or brown depending on age/season; males also have bright blue patches on their bellies, while females do not have this feature which makes them easier to distinguish between genders at a glance.
They are insectivorous, meaning they mostly feed on insects like grasshoppers but will occasionally eat spiders and other arthropods like millipedes or centipedes if given an opportunity. During hot days you may find them basking near rocky outcrops where there is plenty of sunlight for them to warm up but enough shade from trees so predators cannot spot them easily at night.
5. Broadhead Skink
- Scientific Name: Eumeces laticeps
- Size: 4–5 inches in length
- Diet: Insects, spiders, centipedes, snails, and earthworms
- Habitat: Found in moist woodlands near streams or rivers. They are also found near rocky outcroppings or logs.
The Broadhead Skink is one of the most common lizards found in Tennessee. Its broad head and smooth scales on its back can identify it. It has a brownish-gray coloration with a lighter underside and occasionally has blue or yellow flecks on its back.
The Broadhead Skink is an active hunter that feeds on insects, spiders, centipedes, snails, and earthworms. It prefers moist woodlands near streams or rivers but can also be found near rocky outcroppings or logs, where it takes refuge from predators. The Broadhead Skink is found throughout most of Tennessee except for the extreme western portion of the state.
6. Eastern Slender Glass Lizard
- Scientific Name: Ophisaurus attenuatus longicaudus
- Size: 22 – 46 in. length
- Diet: Insects
- Habitat: grasslands, open woodlands, and sandy areas
The Eastern Slender Glass Lizard is a legless reptile that can grow up to 3 feet long, making it one of the largest lizards in the eastern United States. Its name comes from the fact that its body has a shiny, glass-like appearance. The Eastern Slender Glass Lizard is not a true snake but a lizard that has evolved to look and move like a snake.
One interesting characteristic of the Eastern Glass Lizard is its ability to break off its tail when threatened. The tail then continues to wiggle, distracting the predator while the lizard makes its escape.
The Eastern Slender Glass Lizard is the only legless lizard that occurs in the state of Tennessee. They aren’t endangered, but are considered rare and uncommon due to human activities that may have threatened their populations in some areas.
7. Green Anoles
- Scientific Name: Anolis carolinensis
- Size: This lizard can reach up to 6 inches in length.
- Diet: Green Anoles primarily feed on insects such as flying ants, flies, moths, and other small invertebrates.
- Habitat: Green Anoles throughout the southeastern United States, including Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and Tennessee. They are commonly found on tree branches, twigs, shrubs, and bushes, which provide them with shelter and protection.
The Green Anoles are a fascinating species of lizard known for their ability to change color and blend into their surroundings. They are often kept as pets and are popular among reptile enthusiasts due to their relatively small size and ease of care. In the wild, Green Anoles play an important role in controlling insect populations and are an important part of the ecosystem in which they live.
8. Eastern Six-lined RaceRunner
- Scientific Name: Aspidoscelis sexlineata
- Size: Eastern Six-lined Racerunner can grow up to 8 inches (20 cm) long.
- Diet: They are insectivores, meaning their diet consists of insects such as crickets, grasshoppers, and beetles.
- Habitat: Eastern Six-lined Racerunner can be found in various habitats, including open fields, prairies, and rocky areas in the eastern United States.
The Eastern Six-lined Racerunner is a lizard species native to the eastern region. They are small and have six distinctive yellowish-white stripes on their brown or grayish body. They are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day and hunt for their prey on the ground.
Eastern Six-Lined Racerunners are known for their incredible speed and agility, which helps them escape from predators. In addition, they can detach their tails as a defense mechanism when threatened, which will later regenerate.