Blue-tongued Skink

ZOO LOCATION: The Loft and Scutes Family Gallery

Lifespan: Up to 15 years

Wild Diet: Omnivorous; berries, flowers and other plant material, fungi, insects, spiders, other small animals, carrion.

Zoo Diet: Crickets, mealworms (3xs a week), mixture of salad greens, shredded veggies (carrot, yam), non-citrus fruit, hard boiled egg (3xs a week)

Predators: Major predators of blue-tongues are large predatory birds (such as Brown Falcons and Laughing Kookaburras) and large snakes (including the Eastern Brown Snake, Red-bellied Black Snake and Mulga Snake). Feral cats and dogs also eat blue-tongues.


IUCN Status: Not Evaluated

Habitat/Range: Open woodlands, at the margins of forests and fields and in semi-deserts of Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea.

Characteristics: Heavy build, broad body set on short legs with delicate toes, and short, tapered tail. Tail can be shed, but not caudal autotomy like a gecko. Regeneration is stubby. Skink scales are smooth and sleek and contain osteoderms (bony plates that lie just beneath the skin, forming a protective layer). Broad, blunt triangular head is typical of skinks. Deep, berry blue, thick, oval tongue with a shallow notch at the tip. The tongue is vividly offset against the deep pink interior of mouth. Blue-tongued skinks are one of the largest members of the skink family (10-24 total inches). There is little external difference between the sexes, but the males are often more heavily built especially around the head and neck, and their skin may be more boldly patterned.

Behavior: A skink uses its tongue and eyesight to find food. The roof of the mouth contains a Jacobson's organ. The tongue picks up odorous particles from the air or from the surface of objects and transfers these particles to the Jacobson's organ for identification. Diurnal. Ground dwelling. When a blue-tongue is threatened it will face the threat opening its mouth wide, stick out its blue tongue in an attempt to scare away, startle, distract and ward off predators.

Reproduction: Solitary for most of the year, mating occurs in September and November. Pair bonding may occur over successive years. Young are born alive after undergoing a primitive placental development within the mother's body. Viviparous. This contrasts with most live-bearing lizards that have no placental development and simply retain the eggs, allowing them to hatch internally (ovoviviparous). Young are born 3-5 months after mating (December-April). Litters may have 5-18 individuals. New borns can measure 6 in. in length.

Conservation: Blue-tongued skinks are common in the pet trade and are sometimes released into wild, non-indigenous areas when their owners tire of them. This has led to some competition for the native wildlife. In their native region, they are very common, however they are often killed because of a superficial resemblance to the death adder, a very poisonous snake. In long grass, the blue-tongued skink's head is not readily discernable from the adder.