An adult female Broad-headed Skink, from Bourbon County. © Jason Burns.
Image © Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH.
An adult male from within the city limits of Pittsburg. Image © Robert Mangile.
REPTILIA (Reptiles) SQUAMATA (PART) (Other Lizards) SCINCIDAE (Skinks)

Broad-headed Skink
Plestiodon laticeps (Schneider, 1801)
plĕs-tē-ō-dŏn — lă-tē-sĕps


Conservation Status:

State: Kansas Threatened Species

Federal: None
NatureServe State: S2 - Imperiled
NatureServe National: N5 - Secure
NatureServe Global: G5 - Secure
CITES: None
Diagnosis:
The Broad-headed Skink is characterized by four limbs, an ear opening on each side of the head, flat, smooth, shiny scales covering its body, five yellow stripes on the back and sides, two yellow stripes on the head, and a sixth scale (counting back from the nose) on the upper lip which extends up to the edge of the eye. This lizard exhibits the same color changes with age as does the Five-lined Skink, and the two species are extremely difficult to tell apart. Male Broad-headed Skinks grow larger than females and develop an orange-red head during breeding.
These large lizards are seldom observed in Kansas, though they may be abundant where they occur. They are easily confused with the Five-lined Skink, but are twice as large from birth, and typically have 5 scales on the upper lip between the nose and eye (instead of 4). Sowards et al. (2022) found that this character held for 75% (62 of 84) of the Kansas specimens purportedly identified to species by mtDNA. One of the 84 specimens had 4 upper labials on each side; the remainder possessed some combination of 4 and 5 on the right or left sides.
The body is generally gray to dark brown, with five cream-colored stripes on the back and sides. Adults are often uniform gray to brown. Males develop enlarged orange heads in the spring. The young have bright blue tails and prominent stripes on an almost black background.
Adults normally 165-230 mm (6½-9 inches) in total length. The largest specimen from Kansas is a male (KU 222265) from Linn County with SVL of 116 mm and TL of 287 mm (11¼ inches) collected by Kelly J. Irwin, Emily C. Moriarty, Suzanne L. Collins, and Joseph T. Collins on 7 May 1994. The maximum length throughout the range is 323.9 mm (12­3⁄4 inches) (Powell et al., 2016).

Distribution:
Known from pockets along the Marais des Cygnes, Marmaton, Spring, and lower Neosho river basins in eastern Kansas.
Currently, the following areas are designated critical for Broad-headed Skinks:
(1) All stands of mature oak woodland in Bourbon, Crawford, Linn, and Miami counties.
(2) Stands of suitable timber anywhere within the skink's probable range may, upon field investigation, also be found to be essential for the conservation of the species.
(,   Museum Voucher) (,   Observation) (,   Literature Record) (,   iNat Record), (  Fossil)
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Full range depicted by light shaded red area. Export Google Earth (.kml)
  • Occurrence Summary:  
  • 174
    Records 
  • 44
    Museum Vouchers 
  • 130
    Other Observations 
Some county occurrences indicated below may be too imprecise to map above.
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences):
Allen (2); Anderson (2); Bourbon (38); Cherokee (44); Crawford (21); Franklin (1); Linn (36); Miami (28); Neosho (1); Unknown (1);

Fossil History:
Not known from Kansas.

Natural History:
This lizard inhabits forested regions in eastern Kansas, particularly near aquatic situations. It spends much of its time on the ground around logs and brush piles near standing trees but will ascend trees to escape danger and may use abandoned woodpecker holes as a retreat. Its yearly and daily activity cycles are similar to those of the Five-lined Skink. Collins (1982) discovered an adult male in Crawford County on the afternoon of 21 May; the lizard was crossing a highway bordered on both sides by forested hills. They spend much more time in trees (especially as adults) than other Kansas skinks. Males can be observed high up in trees basking and defending their territory. Younger individuals are most often observed on fallen trees along the woodland edge. They are occasionally discovered under flat rocks and trash.
Hullinger (2018) made habitat associations of 124 Broad-headed Skink observations in Kansas and found that they were associated with forest patches with larger dispersed mature trees and larger fallen logs. She also noted that Broad-headed Skinks were secondarily associated with forests that contained Black Walnut (Juglans nigra).
Very little is known of the breeding habits of this species in Kansas. Courtship, mating, and nesting are presumably similar to that of the Five-lined Skink. According to Fitch (1970), the number of eggs laid by female Broad-headed Skinks cannot be estimated because of a history of confusion of this species with the Five-lined Skink. Apparently, the Broad-headed Skink lays more eggs than does the Five-lined Skink. Whipple and Collins (1990) recorded a clutch of eight eggs from a female collected in Crawford County. Before capture, the female was observed copulating with a male on 30 May; she laid the clutch on 6 July, a gestation period of 38 days.
The Broad-headed Skink eats insects, smaller lizards and their eggs, small snakes, and newborn mice (Collins, 1993).

Occurrence Activity:
Number of Unique Obervations (=days): 66; Range: 09 Mar to 29 Dec
Remarks:
First reported from Kansas by Smith (1950: 308) in his list of "probable" species, however as that book went to press "... two specimens of this species were recorded from Murray Lake, Miami County, and four miles west of La Cynge [sic], Linn County, Kansas." Householder (1916) and Taylor (1920) considered P. laticeps synonymous with P. fasciatus [=Eumeces quinquelineatus]. In his monograph on Eumeces, Taylor (1935) listed no specimens from Kansas. The earliest existing specimen (KU 719) from Kansas was collected by Edward H. Taylor in Anderson County during August of 1910. Another (KU 701) was collected at Ottawa (Franklin County) in 1911. Presumably, both of the specimens were available to Taylor (1935). This species is nowhere observably abundant in the state, but this is probably due to its secretive and wary nature (i.e. the first Linn County specimen was collected only as recently as 1994 [Irwin and Collins, 1994]). Additional surveys are needed to locate new localities and assess historic sites.
Listed as a Kansas Threatened species in 1987. Platt et al. (1974) recommended a halt to lumbering operations in areas where this species has been found and protection of natural forest habitat containing stands of dead and decaying trees. No recovery plan has been completed for this species.
As defined by Kansas Administrative Regulations, critical habitats include those areas documented as currently supporting self-sustaining populations(s) of any threatened or endangered species of wildlife as well as those areas determined by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, and Parks to be essential for the conservation of any threatened or endangered species of wildlife. Currently, the following areas are designated critical for Broad-headed Skinks:
(1)All stands of mature oak woodland in Bourbon, Crawford, Linn, and Miami counties.
(2)Stands of suitable timber anywhere within the skink’s probable range may, upon field investigation, also be found to be essential for the conservation of the species.
Placed into Plestiodon (from Eumeces) by Smith (2005) and Brandley et al. (2005).
Based on a captive specimen, Snider and Bowler (1992) reported a maximum longevity for this lizard of seven years, eight months, and 22 days.

Bibliography:
1932 Taylor, Edward H. Eumeces laticeps: A neglected species of skink. University of Kansas Science Bulletin 20(14):263-271
1936 Hurd, Myron Alec. The reptiles of Cherokee County, Kansas. Thesis. Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, Kansas. 103pp.
Under the supervision of thesis adviser Harry H. Hall. Report on 38 species (8 turtles, 7 lizards, and 23 snakes)... most unsubstantiated. Interesting inclusion are Crotalus horridus, Crotalus viridis, Kinosternon subrubrum, Opheodrys vernalis, and Phrynosoma cornutum.
1950 Smith, Hobart M. Handbook of Amphibians and Reptiles of Kansas. University of Kansas, Museum of Natural History, Miscellaneous Publication (2):336
The first modern herpetology of Kansas. Includes locality dot maps within individual species accounts. Reports 96 species from Kansas (table and text say 97 on p. 10) and 13 "probable but unverified" species and subspecies.
1950 Anderson, Paul. The Greater Five-lined Skink, Eumeces laticeps (Schneider), in Kansas. Herpetologica 6():53
1953 Schmidt, Karl P. A Check List of North American Amphibians and Reptiles. 6th Edition. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois. 280pp.
Schmidt's first edition of his standardized checklist to North American amphibians and reptiles. Includes several specific references to Kansas in the range descriptions.
1956 Smith, Hobart M. Handbook of Amphibians and Reptiles of Kansas. Second edition. University of Kansas Museum of Natural History Miscellaneous Publication (9):1-356
Hobart M. Smith's updated second edition of his first (1950) modern herpetology of Kansas. Includes locality dot maps within individual species accounts. Reports 96 species from Kansas (table says 97 on p. 10; text says 98 on p. 10) and 11 "probable but unverified" species and subspecies. The second edition has updated taxonomy, added Plestiodon laticeps, and removed Eurycea tynerensis.
1956 Loomis, Richard B. The chigger mites of Kansas (Acarina, Trombiculidae). University of Kansas Science Bulletin 37():1195-1443
Examined 2,628 Kansas reptiles of 48 species consisting of 27 turtles of 4 species, 1,736 lizards of 12 species and 892 snakes of 32 species for chiggers. Eleven species of chiggers were recovered from reptiles.
For amphibians, 1188 individuals of 21 species were examined. Five species of chigger mite were recovered from amphibians.
1965 Clarke, Robert F. Lizards in Kansas. Kansas School Naturalist 11(4):1-16
1974 Collins, Joseph T. Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas University of Kansas Museum of Natural History Public Education Series (1):283 pp
Joseph T. Collins first Kansas herpetology. <Need to get species total and principal differences with previous 'version' (= Smith 1956)>
1974 Platt, Dwight R., Joseph T. Collins, and Ray E. Ashton, Jr. Rare, endangered and extirpated species in Kansas. II. Amphibians and reptiles. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 76(3):185-192
The initial initiative to determine population and conservation status of Kansas' amphibians and reptiles based on our understanding at the time. A lot has changed regarding our increased knowledge on all the listed species.
1976 Rundquist, Eric M. Field checklist (of) amphibians and reptiles of Kansas. Kansas Herpetological Society, Lawrence. pp.
1976 Ashton, Ray E., Jr., Stephen R. Edwards, and George R. Pisani. Endangered and threatened amphibians and reptiles in the United States. Herpetological Circulars (5):65
1977 Perry, Janice. Kansas herps needed. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (18):2-3
List of Kansas amphibians and reptiles desired for the SSAR/HL meeting to be held 7-13 August 1977.
1981 Moehn, Loren D. Microhabitat preference in the Broadheaded Skink. Bulletin of Chicago Herpetological Society 15():49-53
1981 Moehn, Loren D. Differential abundance of the Broadheaded Skink, Eumeces laticeps, and the Fivelined Skink, Eumeces fasciatus, in southern Illinois. Bulletin of Chicago Herpetological Society 16():6-11
1982 Collins, Joseph T. Report to the Kansas Fish and Game Commission on the status of three amphibians in southeastern Kansas. Kansas Fish and Game Commission, Pratt. 57pp.
1982 Collins, Joseph T. Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas. 2nd edition. University of Kansas Museum of Natural History Public Education Series (8):
Joseph T. Collins second Kansas herpetology. <Need to get species total and principal differences with previous 'version' (= Collins 1974)>
1984 Brown, Kenneth L. Pomona: A plains village variant in eastern Kansas and western Missouri. Dissertation. University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas. 519pp.
1984 Secor, Stephen M. and Charles C. Carpenter. Distribution maps of Oklahoma reptiles. Oklahoma Herpetological Society Special Publication (3):1-57
1986 Layher, William G., Ken L. Brunson, J.Schaefer, Marvin D. Schwilling, and R. D. Wood. Summary of nongame task force actions relative to developing three species lists: Species in Need of Conservation, Threatened, and Endangered. Kansas Fish and Game Commission, Pratt. 27pp.
1988 Busby, William H. The Kansas Natural Heritage Program: Taking stock of Kansas' natural heritage. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (71):9-12
1988 Cooper, Willilam E., Jr. Eumeces laticeps. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles (445):1-3
1989 Simmons, John E. Endangered and threatened in Kansas. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (75):4-5
1989 Brunson, Ken. More on the Kansas endangered and threatened species list. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (77):17-19
1989 Collins, Joseph T. New records of amphibians and reptiles in Kansas for 1989. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (78):16-21
1990 Lardie, Richard L. Kansas threatened species and protection of the Gypsum Hills habitat. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (80):14-15
1990 Collins, Joseph T. Maximum size records for Kansas amphibians and reptiles. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (81):13-17
1991 Conant, Roger and Joseph T. Collins. Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. 3rd ed. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. pp.
1992 Taggart, Travis W. KHS field trips. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (91):3
1993 Miller, Larry L. and Joseph T. Collins. History, distribution and habitat requirements for three species of threatened reptiles in eastern Kansas. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt. 29pp.
1993 Collins, Joseph T. and Suzanne L. Collins. Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas. Third Edition. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Lawrence. 397pp.
Joseph T. Collins third Kansas herpetology. <Need to get species total and principal differences with previous 'version' (= Collins 1982)>
1994 Irwin, Kelly J. and Joseph T. Collins. A survey for threatened and endangered herpetofauna in the lower Marais des Cygnes River valley Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, . 6pp.
1994 Rundquist, Eric M. 1994 Field Trip Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (95):3-4
1994 Rundquist, Eric M. Results of the sixth annual KHS herp counts held 1 April-31 May 1994. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (97):5-14
See, 1994 Rundquist, Eric M. Additions and corrections [to the results of the sixth annual KHS herp counts held 1 April-31 May 1994]. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (98):4.
1995 Collins, Joseph T. New records of amphibians and reptiles in Kansas for 1994. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (100):24-47
1995 Irwin, Kelly J. Geographic distribution: Eumeces laticeps. Herpetological Review 26(2):108
1996 Anderson, Lewis R. and Joseph A. Arruda. Land use and anuran biodiversity in southeast Kansas. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt, Kansas. 37pp.
1996 Rakestraw, J. Spring herp counts: A Kansas tradition. Reptile & Amphibian Magazine (March-April):75-80
1997 Collins, Joseph T. A report on the KHS fall field trip to the Marais des Cygnes wildlife refuges. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (110):2-3
1998 Conant, Roger and Joseph T. Collins. Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. 3rd ed, expanded. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. pp.
1998 Powell, Robert, Joseph T Collins, and Errol D Hooper Jr. A Key to Amphibians & Reptiles of the Continental United States and Canada. Univ Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas. 131pp.
1998 Gamble, Jerre. Marais des Cygnes National Wildlife Refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Hartford, Kansas. 91pp.
1999 Rundquist, Eric M. Kansas Herpetological Society herp counts: A 10 year summary and evaluation. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (115):42962
1999 Taggart, Travis W. Cherokee County fall 1999 herp count. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (117):6
Reported Anaxyrus woodhousii was likely A. fowleri.
2000 Collins, Joseph T. New records of amphibians and reptiles in Kansas for 1999. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (119):7-9
2000 Griffith, Hugh, Andre Ngo and Robert W. Murphy. A cladistic evaluation of the cosmopolitan genus Eumeces Weigmann (Reptilia, Squamata, Scincidae) Russian Journal of Herpetology 7(1):1-16
2000 Taggart, Travis W. and Joseph T. Collins. Geographic distribution. Eumeces laticeps. Herpetological Review 31(1):52
2001 Taggart, Travis W. The KHS 2001 spring field trip: A rainy rendezvous. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (124):12-14
2001 Rundquist, Eric M. Results of the thirteenth annual KHS herp counts for 2001, held 1 April-30 June. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (125):13-16
2002 Kingsbury, Bruce and Joanna Gibson. Habitat Management Guidelines for Amphibians and Reptiles of the Midwest. Publication of Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, Address not given. 152pp.
2003 Taggart, Travis W. Kansas Herpetological Society 2003 spring field trip. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (5):3-4
2004 Schmitz, Andreas, Patrick Mausfeld, and Dirk Embert. Molecular studies on the genus Eumeces Weigmann, 1834: Phylogenetic relationships and taxonomic implications Hamadryad 28(1-2):73-89
2005 Welch, Derek. Geographic distribution: Eumeces laticeps. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (14):11
2005 Smith, Hobart M. Plestiodon: A replacement name for most members of the genus Eumeces in North America. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (14):15-16
2005 Brandley, Matthew C., Andreas Schmitz, and Todd W. Reeder. Partitioned Bayesian analyses, partition choice, and the phylogenetic relationships of Scincid Lizards. Systematic Biology 54(3):373–390
2006 Taggart, Travis W. Distribution and status of Kansas herpetofauna in need of information. State Wildlife Grant T7. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt. vii + 106pp.
2008 Industrial Economics, Incorporated. Cherokee County: Restoration Plan / Environmental Assessment. Prepared for: US Department of the Interior, US Fish and Wildlife Service. Industrial Economics, Incorporated, Cambridge, MA. 138pp.
2008 Taggart, Travis W. KHS 2008 spring field trip. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (25):2-3
2010 Collins, Joseph T., Suzanne L. Collins, and Travis W. Taggart. Amphibians, Reptiles, and Turtles of Kansas Eagle Mountain Publishing., Provo, Utah. 400pp.
Joseph T. Collins fourth Kansas herpetology. <Need to get species total and principal differences with previous 'version' (= Collins 1993)>
2011 Taggart, Travis W. Kansas Herpetological Society 2011 spring field trip to beheld in Chautauqua County. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (37):5-7
2012 Rohweder, Megan R. Spatial conservation prioritization of Kansas for terrestrial vertebrates. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 151pp.
2012 Powell, Robert, Joseph T Collins, and Errol D Hooper Jr. Key to the Herpetofauna of the Continental United States and Canada: Second Edition, Revised and Updated. Univ Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas. 152pp.
2013 Taggart, Travis W. KHS 2012 Spring Field Trip to Bourbon County State Lake. Collinsorum 2(3/4):3
2013 Taggart, Travis W. KHS 2013 Spring Field Trip to Schermerhorn Park, Cherokee County. Collinsorum 2(3/4):4
2014 Taggart, Travis W. Recent scientific and standard English name changes effecting the Kansas herpetofauna. Collinsorum 3(2-4):9-10
2014 Goldberg, Stephen R. Notes on reproduction in Broadhead Skinks, Plestiodon laticeps (Squamata: Scincidae) from Oklahoma. Bulletin of the Chicago Herpetological Society 49(12):168-171
2015 Rohweder, Megan R. Kansas Wildlife Action Plan. Ecological Services Section, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism in cooperation with the Kansas Biological Survey. 176pp.
2016 Powell, Robert, Roger Conant, and Joseph T. Collins. Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston. 494pp.
2017 Taggart, Travis W. and J. Daren Riedle. A Pocket Guide to Kansas Amphibians, Turtles and Lizards. Great Plains Nature Center, Wichita, Kansas. 69pp.
2017 Crother, Brian I. (editor) Scientific and Standard English Names of Amphibians and Reptiles of North America North of Mexico, with Comments Regarding Confidence in Our Understanding. Eighth edition. Herpetological Circulars (43):102
2018 Hullinger, Allison R. Critical habitat assessment and recovery plan for the Kansas State Threatened Broad-headed Skink. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 95pp.
2019 Powell, Robert, Joseph T Collins, and Errol D Hooper Jr. Key to the Herpetofauna of the Continental United States and Canada. Third Edition. Univ Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas. 192pp.
2020 Daniel, Richard E. and Brian S. Edmond. Atlas of Missouri Amphibians and Reptiles for 2019. Privately printed, Columbia, Missouri. 86pp.
2020 Riedle, J. Daren. Revisiting Kansas Herpetological Society field trip and Herp Count data: Distributional patterns and trend data of Kansas amphibians and reptiles. Collinsorum 9(1):7-16
2020 Hullinger, Allison, Zackary Cordes, Daren Riedle, and William Stark. Habitat assessment of the Broad-headed Skink (Plestiodon laticeps) and the associated squamate community in eastern Kansas. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 123(1-2):137-150
2021 Taggart, Travis W and Sarah L Taggart. Herp Count: Cherokee County: KHS-2020-02 Collinsorum 9(3):11-12
2021 Taggart, Travis W and Sarah L Taggart. Herp Count: Cherokee County: KHS-2020-03 Collinsorum 9(3):12
2021 Busby, William H., Barve, Narayani, Cobos, Marlon, and Peterson, A. Townsend. Effects of landscape history on current geographic distributions of four species of reptiles and amphibians in Kansas. The Southwestern Naturalist 66(2):157-165
2022 Sowards, Allison , Zackary Cordes, and J. Daren Riedle. Meristic variation in Kansas Broad-headed Skinks (Plestiodon laticeps) and Common Five-lined Skinks (P. fasciatus). Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 125(3-4):191-194
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Travis W. Taggart © 1999-2024 — w/ Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Fort Hays State University