This five-lined skink had a bad day!
Five-lined skinks (Plestiodon fasciatus) are common to the forests of eastern North America, important in the food web for eating invertebrates like earwigs, spiders, and beetles. Five-lined skinks are known not only their namesake dorsolateral stripes, but a tail that can fall off if the skink is attacked by a predator.
James McClintock and colleagues were fishing in the debris-laden waters of a Birmingham, Alabama stream when they hooked a freshwater bass (Micropterus hensahlii) consuming a five-lined skink. The dead skink was exposed head-first from the mouth of the bass, and the other half of its body, including its tail, was in the stomach of the bass. Related species of bass opportunistically eat aquatic insects, fish, and crayfish, so this discovery is a noteworthy occasion related to the feeding behavior of a predatory fish.
This discovery is also puzzling: how did the aquatic bass and the terrestrial skink cross paths in the first place? McClintock et al. speculate on several scenarios: First, that this skink fell into the stream while it was moving in debris above the moving water. Second, that this skink was at the stream’s edge and was ambushed by the bass. A final thought from this incident: assuming the tail of the skink was the first thing in the mouth of the bass, why didn’t the skink take evasive behavior and drop its tail? Lots of questions related to this herpetology highlight!
Citation: McClintock, J.B., R. A. Angus, and K.R. Marion. 2015. Predation by Fish. Herpetological Review 46 (3): 434-435.