For James

Dear James, I am very lucky to have your Grandma (Jeanne) go along with me to explore. We find some really neat stuff. Well, whenever we see a lizard or any reptile, she says James needs a picture.

As we climbed up a bank, this beauty blended in nicely with gray bark on a fallen tree! As you probably know James, it would be hard to tell which species of Hyla it is. For now I am just happy to call it a gray treefrog because it is gray.
Grandma came over to take a look! The two species Cope’s gray treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis) and Gray treefrog (H. versicolor) are very similar. They can only reliably be told apart by call pulse rate, blood cells, and/or DNA. The Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians says that the Gray treefrog usually has rougher skin. Both species have overlapping ranges. If I was to guess I think this one does have rougher skin than the ones I mostly see at my house. However, I will just go with Hyla chrysoscelis or H. versicolor.

Since I had gotten my initial photos with the little guy I grabbed it. Then Grandma held it while I got the photos. The yellow legs are a characteristic of the two species. According to Wikipedia, this “flash pattern” likely serves to startle a predator as the frog makes its escape”.

Its pouch puff up for us!

Then we set it back on its original resting place. Indeed it was surprising that it just stayed put. It was safe again blending in with the gray bark.

Now Grandma was about to climb the bank using the same soft log as a step as I did. However the log disintegrated as she put her weigh on it. We saw the skink in the soft decayed wood! I managed to grab it. It was squirming a lot.

I handed it off to Grandma so I could get some better photos of details.
Indeed it looked like a smile. However I doubt it was very happy to be in its current predicament.

A side look at the scales.

The belly! And it could be useful for ID’ing it.
Another important view, the face!

There were many photos taken. And I had to comb through many to see key features to make a determination.

Using the Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians again I delved into the details of drawings. First it appeared to me to be either a Common Five-lined Skink or Broad-headed Skink. This one was about seven plus inches long. The size for Five-lined (FL) listed was 5 to 8 3/4″. Broad-headed (BH) was 6 1/2″ to 12 3/4″. It could be either at this point. FL females can retain their stripes. BH can too but not quite as vivid. Hmmm. In the guide it had drawings of the scales on the tail. FL and BH have the same pattern unlike another species P. inexpectatus which could be in your area the range map indicated, but not here in North Texas. Now it was time to check out the mouth scales called labials. FH has four labials and two postlabials. However BH only has five labials and no postlabials.

So after carefully examining and counting scales I am going with a female Common Five-lined Skink (Plestiodon fasciatus)! And that was my conclusion.

And James if you don’t own the Peterson guide, you might consider asking for one your birthday or Christmas. 😉

Happy Herping!


P.S. You are so lucky to such an awesome grandma. Your grandpa is pretty neat too.

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Keep looking!

The more you know, the more you see and the more you see, the more you know


  1. This made one boy names James smile the biggest smile “Well, whenever we see a lizard or any reptile, she says James needs a picture.”
    He (we) can’t wait to explore in a few weeks!! Thank you, Mary, for making such special blog posts for us to learn and appreciate!

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