Blue Tongued Skink


ORDER: Squamata

FAMILY: Scincidae

GENUS: Tiliqua

SPECIES: scincoides intermedia

DESCRIPTION:
A large lizard (17-24 inches in length) with a long body, large head and small legs with delicate toes. The tail is shorter than the body and generally tapers to a point. Color consists of a pattern of dark brown bars on a light brown or cream background; orange bars alternate with brown on the sides. They have a faint eye stripe and a cobalt-blue tongue. Scales are shiny, overlapping, and contain small plates of bone. Eardrums are sunken into cavities on sides of head. Skin is shed in pieces.

GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AND HABITAT:
Blue-tongued skinks live principally in open country with lots of ground cover such as tussocky grasses or leaf litter. The Northern Blue Tongue lives in tropical/savannah woodland in the northern part of West Australia.

DIET:
Omnivorous, eating a variety of insects, snails, carrion, flowers and fruits. They are not very agile and the animals they eat are mostly slow moving. Their teeth are large and they have strong jaw muscles so they can crush snails and beetles.

LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
Diurnal and secretive. Shelters at night in hollow logs, ground debris, rocks, etc. They bask in the morning to raise their body temperature and maintain a temperature of about 30-35 degrees C. when active. During cold weather they remain buried deep in their shelter. Mating takes place in the spring. Gestation takes four months and 5-20 young are born live. Eggs do not develop a typical shell, and membranes enclosing the embryo interfold with the wall of the mother's oviduct to create a type of placenta, which helps to supply water and oxygen to the developing embryo. The young look after themselves right after birth and disperse within a few days. Life span in captivity is 18-20 years.

SPECIAL ADAPTATIONS:
Can shed its tail to escape predators. Has a moveable and transparent lower eyelid to protect its eyes from dust and still see. Ingests small stones to help digest its food.

INTERPRETIVE INFORMATION:
With around 800 species the skinks constitute one of the largest saurian families. Blue-tongues are the largest members of the skink family. Skinks offer a vivid demonstration of a gradual transition from lizards with four strong legs to the legless lizard (a progress from the original mode of life above ground to the specialized life of the subterranean burrower: longer trunk, smaller limbs, reduced fingers and toes, and protected sense organs, i.e. ears and eyes.). When threatened, this lizard may stand its ground, puff up, hiss, and stick out its blue tongue (which contrasts sharply with its pink mouth) to startle a predator.

OUR ANIMALS:
2 blue tongued skink are used in our Zoomobile and Education programs. They are not viewable by the public.

STATUS IN WILD:
Not endangered. Predators include the Tasmanian Devil, native cat, dingoes, kookaburras, other carnivores. They adapt well to suburban gardens and are welcome since they keep down snails and plant-eating insects, but they fall prey to suburban cats and dogs as well as garden chemicals and lawn mowers.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

  1. Blue-tongued Lizards. Australian Museum Online. http://www.austmus.gov.au/is/sand/blueton.htm
  2. Blue-Tongued Skink. Fact sheet. Binder Park Zoo.
  3. Card, Winston. 1994, "Blotched Blue-Tongued Skink", Vivarium, Vol. 6, No. 3.
  4. Grzimek, Bernhard. 1984. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia Vol. 6. Van Nostrand Reinhold Co, New York City, NY, pp. 242-248.

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