Blue-tongued skinks comprise the Australasian genus, Tiliqua, which contains some of the largest members of the skink family (Scincidae). They are commonly called blue-tongued lizards or simply blue-tongues in Australia. As suggested by these common names, a prominent characteristic of the genus is a large blue tongue that can be bared as a bluff-warning to potential enemies.
Systematics and distribution
Blue-tongued skinks are closely related to the genera Cyclodomorphus and Hemisphaeriodon. All species are found on mainland Australia with the exception of Tiliqua gigas, which occurs in New Guinea and various islands of Indonesia. One subspecies of Tiliqua scincoides is also found on several small Indonesian islands between Australia and New Guinea. Tiliqua nigrolutea is the only species present in Tasmania. With the exception of the pygmy blue-tongue, they are relatively large lizards (up to 45 cm total length), light-bodied, short-limbed, broad with distinct heads and dull teeth.
Most species are diurnal, ground-foraging omnivores, feeding on a wide variety of insects, gastropods, flowers, fruits and berries. The pygmy blue-tongue is again the exception, being primarily an ambush predator of terrestrial arthropods. All are viviparous, with litter sizes ranging from one to four in the pygmy blue-tongue and shingleback to five to 24 in the eastern and northern blue-tongues.
Species and subspecies
- Tiliqua adelaidensis, Adelaide pygmy blue-tongue skink
- Tiliqua gigas, Indonesian blue-tongued skink
- T. g. evanescens, Merakue blue-tongued skink
- T. g. keyensis, Key Island blue-tongued skink
- Tiliqua sp., Irian Jaya blue-tongued skink
- Tiliqua multifasciata, Centralian blue-tongued skink
- Tiliqua nigrolutea, blotched blue-tongued lizard
- Tiliqua occipitalis, western blue-tongued lizard (or skink)
- Tiliqua rugosa, shingleback, stump-tailed skink or sleepy lizard
- T. r. rugosa, common shingleback
- T. r. aspera, eastern shingleback
- T. r. palarra, Shark Bay shingleback
- T. r. konowi, Rottnest Island shingleback
- Tiliqua scincoides, Australian blue-tongued skink
Centralian blue-tongued lizard from the Tanami Desert
Eastern blue-tongued lizard in metropolitan Sydney
- Cogger, H. G. 2000. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia. Reed New Holland.
- Turner, G. 2001. Keeping Bluetongue Lizards. Australian Reptile Keeper Publications.
- Austin, J.J. & Arnold, E.N. (2006): Using ancient and recent DNA to explore relationships of extinct and endangered Leiolopisma skinks (Reptilia: Scincidae) in the Mascarene islands. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 39(2): 503–511. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2005.12.011 (HTML abstract)
- Bull, C.M. (1988): Mate fidelity in an Australian lizard Trachydosaurus rugosus (Scincidae). Copeia 1987(3): 749-757.
- Bull, C.M. (1990): Comparison of displaced and retained partners in a monogamous lizard Tiliqua rugosa. Australian Wildlife Research 17: 135-140.
- Valentic, R.A. (1996): A prey record of the Eastern Blue-tongue Tiliqua scincoides for the common brown snake Pseudonaja textilis. Monitor 8(3): 155.