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Blue-Tongue Lizard
Eastern Water dragon
Goanna
Goulds Goanna

The Blue Tongue Lizard

By Rhianna Blackthorn

Of the 300 species of skinks native to Australia, the Blue Tongue Lizard is the largest of all. There are six species of Blue Tongue. The Eastern Blue-tongue (Tiliqua scincoides scincoides), Blotched Blue-tongue (Tiliqua nigrolutea), The Shingleback (Tiliqua rugosa) are three of the most common species found.


Appearance and Characteristics


Blue Tongue's vary in colour and scale between the species. Commonly, they are silver grey in colour, with dark brown to black bands across their body and tails. They look odd with their long solid bodies, and large heads compared to their tiny legs, feet and toes. They commonly grow up to 60cms in length, with the Shingle Back growing up to 45cms. Their tails are thick at the base, and taper to a fine point at the end. These species of skinks are easily identified with their bright blue tongues which they will stick out and hiss when provoked.
Like all skinks, they are able to "drop" their tail to elude a predator when necessary. Once their tail has been disengaged from their body, a new one starts to form, and it is totally regenerated in a year. During this time, the skink must have a stable food source as all of the animals fat and water reserves are stored in their tails.


Like all lizards, blue-tongues do not produce their own body heat, and rely on the warmth of their surroundings to raise their body temperature. This is known as ectothermic. The term cold blooded is inadequate, as their blood temperature is between 30 degrees Celsius and 35 degrees Celsius when they are active.


Reproductive Cycle

TheBlue Tongue is a solitary animal, and only come together during the spring when they seek mates. Males often fight fiercely for territory and breeding rights. Mating is often rough, with the females carrying the scars as evidence.The Eastern Blue Tongue is able to breed annually, with other species breeding every second year.
3 - 5 months after mating the female gives birth. The babies are born independent, and eat the placenta and membrane upon birth. This gives them their first nourishment. A few days later, they will shed for the first time. Babies are generally born 10 - 13cm in length, and there may be up to 19 young in a litter. The Shingle Back however gives birth to 1 - 3 young that measure up to 20cm in length.
Maturing at about 3 years of age, or when the individual reaches up to 40cms. Having dispersed at birth, maturing males will now seek a territory of their own.


Diet and Habitat


Blue-tongues usually live in open country with lots of ground cover such as grasses or leaf litter. They shelter at night among leaf litter or under large objects on the ground such as rocks and logs. Early in the morning blue-tongues emerge to bask in sunny areas before foraging for food during the warmer parts of the day.
An opportunistic feeder, the blue tongue will eat anything slow enough for it to catch. They will eat a variety of plants, and a large range of insects. No blue tongue can go past a snail, and these are like ice cream to them.
An adaptable lizard, all species of Blue Tongue are able to adapt to living in suburbia. They are common in the gardens of home owners, and are considered an asset as they keep the bug numbers down.

This blue tongue came into care after being pulled from flood waters in
Lismore in 2005. Note the fork in the tail - this is not usual. This
animal has "lost" its tail, and the regrowth, void of bone, grows atypical.

 

Blue Tongues in your garden


Blue tongue lizards are a great asset to have in your garden as they love eating snails, caterpillars and other pests. Using chemicals and snail pellets is the quickest way to wipe out your local Blue Tongue population. Blue tongues need plenty of places to hide such as rocks and logs on the ground, piles of leaves and low shrubby bushes. Old ceramic and poly pipes around your yard will also provide good hiding places and escape routes for your lizards.
Other main threats to Blue Tongues are cats, dogs, cars and lawn mowers. They do not run away when danger threatens, but puff themselves up and stick out their tongues. Not a good defence against a lawn mower. To protect your lizards, keep your cats locked up, take great care when mowing long grass and ask your neighbours to also not use chemicals. Dogs can be taught when young not to attack Blue tongues, but when older it can be difficult. One lady retrieved a dead Blue Tongue from her dog, covered it in a non toxic nail polish with extremely bitter taste designed to prevent nail biting, and then gave it back to her dog. This worked very well and her dog never touched another lizard, even though it would bark frantically at them.
Blue Tongue lizards can live as long as 30 years, and will become quite used to you and your family. They are a wonderful native animal to share your garden.

Importance of tree hollows

Blue Tongue Lizard

Juveniles

Image by Melanie Barsony

Juveniles

Image by Melanie Barsony

Head injury

Image by Rhianna Blackthorn

Pink Tongue Skink

 

 
Image by Alex Wilson
Image by Alex Wilson
 
     

Juveniles

Image by Carolyn Gray

Juveniles

Image by Carolyn Gray

Juveniles

Image by Carolyn Gray

Image by Sharon McGrigor
Image by Sharon McGrigor
Image by Sharon McGrigor

 

 

Updated January 19, 2014

 

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