About Spiny Softshell Turtle & Five Lined Skink – Eumeces fasciatus

Spiny Softshell Turtle :

This large distinctive turtle is Ontario’s only species of soft-shell.

Appearance: Spiny Soft-shell Turtles are easily recognized by the leathery shell covering, long-neck, and long pointed snout.  They are one of our largest turtle species.  The carapace is grey or brown.  In juveniles and adult males, the carapace has light spots with a dark outline; the shells of adult females have blurry spots.  The name spiny soft-shell comes from the row of short spines along the front edge of the carapace.  The astronaut is quite small and yellow in color.  Light stripes are present on the sides of the head.

Spiny Soft shell Turtle

This species can easily be distinguished by the combination of long snout, leathery shell, and grey/brown color.  All other Ontario turtles have shorter snouts and their shells are covered in scouts.

Habitat and Behavior: Spiny Soft shells are very good swimmers. They are also able to move very quickly on land and will seek refuge in water if surprised.  They can be very aggressive if handled.  Often they lie in shallow water with only their nostrils exposed.  Although they can move considerable distances over the course of a summer, they seldom travel far from water.  Food consists of mulluscs, crustaceans, and fish.  In Ontario, Spiny Soft shells only occur in parts of Lake Erie and the Thames River in the southwest, and in the Ottawa River in the east.

Reproduction: Mating occurs in early summer and eggs are deposited in June.  Females usually excavate a nest hole close to water and deposit 10 to 30 eggs.  The eggs hatch in late summer and the young turtles enter the water immediately.

Five Lined Skink – Eumeces fasciatus

We are fortunate to have a species of lizard as part of the wildlife of Ontario.

Appearance: Five Lined Skinks are black or grey with five white or yellow stripes along the back.  The colour pattern diminishes with age as the stripes darken, resulting in a less contrasting adult pattern.  Juveniles have bright blue tails, but this colour also fades with age.  In adults the tail is grey.

Five Lined Skink – Eumeces fasciatus

As this is Ontario’s only lizard species, identification should be simple, but the Five Lined Skink can sometimes be confused with large salamanders.  Salamanders have no scales, while skinks, like all lizard shave scaly skin.  Salamanders are also much slower moving than the fast and agile skinks, and prefer moist habitats, while skinks seek warmer and drier locations.

Habitat and Behavior: Skinks are active during the day,when they forage for food.  Their movement can be quite rapid, and it is often difficult to see skinks as they run quickly through leaf litter. They usually prefer wooded locations with sandy soil and ground cover but also frequent rocky habitat with crevices for concealment.  Lizards like to bask, and they can often be seen in sunny locations.  They feed on insects, worms, or other invertebrates and can be quite acrobatic in chasing prey.  Skinks hibernate in fissures among rocks or buried in the soil.

Reproduction: Egg laying usually takes place in June.  Females produce 6-10 small white eggs, elongate with leathery shells, which are deposited in the shelter of a rock or log.  The female will usually guard the eggs until they hatch.  The eggs hatch in late summer, and the young skinks are about 2 inches long.

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