Shingle back skinks are among the largest of the Australian skinks. Mature adults typically weigh 600 to 900 grams and have snout-vent lengths (SVLs) of 16 to 18 inches (VItt and Pianka, 1994). Tiliqua rugosa has an extremely short, blunt tail, being only one quarter of the SVL. The tail very much resembles the head of this species, and could probably be very easily as such by a would be predator. The scales of the body and tail are typically very large in size, and have a rough, knobby appearance, making this creature greatly resemble a pine cone. Head scales are fragmented and irregular, making them difficult to count and compare to other reptiles. The tongue of T. rugosa is cobalt blue in color, and is used extensively as a sensory organ, in conjunction with the Jacobson's organ. The dentation of this species is acrodont, meaning that the teeth are set on the edges of the jaw bones and are not in grooved sockets (Bustard, 1970). The legs in the shingle back skink are noticeably reduced, with the hind limbs being approximately twenty percent of the SVL, and the toes are short and fat (Cogger, 1975). Ear-openings are conspicuous and without anterior lobules (unlike genus Tiliqua). It is thought that males have a more slender, slightly longer tail than females, although this is by no means a sure way to sex this species. A better way of sexing is by cloacal examination (male hemipenes can be everted with pressure).
Coloration can vary greatly in the shingle backs, with three subspecies being recognized by these differences: T. r. rugosus of western Australia is classified as having a moderately long, slender tail and is brownish-red in color with yellow spots or white bands; T. r. konowi of Rattnest Island is small and dark, with gray coloration and numerous tiny, white specks on the belly and back; and T. r. asper of eastern Australia has the shortest, widest tail, with a very fragmented scalation pattrn and is usually solid brown with no pattern at all (Walls, 1996).
Range mass: 600 to 900 g.
Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry