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Blue-Tongued Skinks: Chubby, Stubby Lizards of Australia

March 07, 2015  •  1 Comment

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Western blue-tongued skink (Tiliqua occipitalis) in the Outback near Shark Bay, Western Australia.

If you’ve seen a small lizard sunbathing on your porch or darting into the bushes, chances are, you’ve seen a skink. Skinks are a widespread and diverse family of lizards that you can find on all continents except Antarctica. But, in Australia, you will encounter some of the largest and most impressive skinks of all: the blue-tongues.
Now, obviously, blue-tongues received their names from their tongues, which they flick from their mouths to frighten enemies. Yet, despite this aggressive display, they are harmless. They may bite, but unlike other Australia reptiles, they certainly aren’t venomous, and they are popular pets.

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Western blue-tongued skink (Tiliqua occipitalis) in the Outback near Shark Bay, Western Australia.

Apart from their tongues, blue-tongues have a variety of other defining features. They have broad heads and flat, chubby bodies, and they have stubby limbs, so they cannot move very quickly. They also have pointed, tapering tails, typical of lizards, but there is an exception. One blue-tongue species, known as the bobtail or shingleback, has a round, stumpy tail. This tail contains fat reserves, which allow it to hibernate through the winter. The tail may also confuse predators, since it resembles the bobtail’s head.

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Bobtail skink (Tiliqua rugosa) on a farm near Bullsbrook, Western Australia.

Blue-tongues have another unique characteristic: they are viviparous. This means the young develop within the mother’s body, and the mother blue-tongue gives birth to live young, rather than laying eggs like other reptiles. Pretty cool, huh?

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An eastern blue-tongued skink (Tiliqua scincoides scincoides) I found in a park in Brisbane, Queensland.

If you want to find a wild blue-tongue, you’ll generally encounter them in the bush or Outback, but you can find some species in cities and suburbs as well. For best results, though, you should scan roads and roadsides. Here, blue-tongues capitalize on the heat stored in the asphalt, and they are very easy to spot.

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Bobtail skink (Tiliqua rugosa) on a road in South Australia. Possibly injured.

However, as you can imagine, roads are not the safest place for lizards. With cars speeding across Australian highways at speeds of 110 kilometers an hour or more (that’s 68 miles per hour for my fellow Americans), they are common roadkill victims. If you see a blue-tongue on or near the road, please stop, pick it up, and move it a safe distance from the road. But, please, bear your own safety in mind, or you’ll become roadkill yourself!

For more information about blue-tongued skinks, please visit Wikipedia and bluetongueskinks.net. Thanks for reading!


Comments

1.Kenny Wong(non-registered)
Hey Luke,

Awesome article there! Lots of beautiful pictures of these little creatures! I wrote a new article the other day about lizards too haha. Would you mind checking it out here -> http://ReptilianZone.com/lizard-guide/

Since your the expert, your opinions and feedbacks are highly appreciated!!! ;-)

Regards
kenny
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