Tiliqua nigrolutea

Blue-tongued skink

Blue-tongued skinks are the genus Tiliqua, which contains some of the largest members of the skink family (Scincidae). They are called commonly blue-tongued lizards in Australia, where true lizards (Lacertidae) do not naturally occur. As suggested by these common names, its distinguishing characteristic is a blue tongue.


Like their close relatives of the genus Cyclodomorphus. A distinct species, Tiliqua gigas, occurs in the island of New Guinea and various islands of Indonesia. One of the 3 subspecies of Tiliqua scincoides is found on several small Indonesian islands between Australia and New Guinea. Most species, with the exception of the pygmy blue-tongue, are relatively large (up to 371 mm total length), light-bodied, short-limbed, broad with a distinct head, and dull teeth. The eastern blue tongue can have up to 12 babies and grows up to 60 cm

These lizards have different names all over Australia. In South Australia they are known as 'sleepy lizards', in Western Australia they are known as 'pinecone lizards', in Victoria they are known as 'shinglebacks', in New South Wales they are known as 'bob-tailed skinks', just to mention a few.


These lizards occupy a range of habitats from desert, semi-arid savannah, woodland and temperate suburban areas through to tropical jungle. They are omnivorous, and may feed on berries, flowers and other plant material, fungi, insects, spiders, or other small animals, carrion, and are very partial to snails and slugs. They may grow up to 60 cm (depending on the species). Solitary for most of the year, mating occurs in September-November. Pair bonding may occur over successive years (Bull 1988, 1990). The young are born (live) 3-5 months after mating (December-April). Litters may have 5-18 individuals.

Predators include kookaburras, raptors, and snakes such as the Eastern brown snake or the Mulga snake (Valentic 1996). Dogs and cats have also been known to attack bluetongues in a suburban environment. When a blue-tongue is threatened, it will face the threat by opening its mouth wide, sticking out its blue tongue and hissing in an attempt to scare away the threat.



  • (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. (HTML abstract)
  • (1988): Mate fidelity in an Australian lizard Trachydosaurus rugosus (Scincidae). Copeia 1987(3): 749-757.
  • (1990): Comparison of displaced and retained partners in a monogamous lizard Tiliqua rugosa. Australian Wildlife Research 17: 135-140.
  • (1996): A prey record of the Eastern Blue-tongue Tiliqua scincoides for the common brown snake Pseudonaja textilis. Monitor 8(3): 155.

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