Blue-Tongued Skink Facts: A Closer Look at a Curious Creature

Published March 30, 2021
Eastern blue-tongued lizard

Counted among kid's favorite reptiles, the blue-tongued skink makes for an interesting animal, as these blue-tongued skink facts are sure to prove. Whether you're trying to find the perfect animal for one of your children's school projects or you're toying with the idea of becoming a herpetologist, the mystery behind the blue-tongued skink is sure to surprise you.

There Are a Lot of Blue-Tongued Skinks

It may seem like the blue-tongued skink refers to just one type of lizard, but there's actually eight different species of these small reptiles, most of which reside in Australia, New Zealand, and the surrounding islands. These species include:

  • Australian Blue-Tongued Skink
  • Western Blue-Tongued Skink
  • Central Blue-Tongued Skink
  • Blotched Blue-Tongued Skink
  • Shingleback
  • Pygmy Blue-Tongued Skink
  • Indonesian Blue-Tongued Skink
  • Irian Jaya Blue-Tongued Skink

Location Is Important for These Lizards

Their climate and habitat are very important to these scaley creatures because they're cold-blooded. As with most reptiles, these lizards cannot regulate their body temperatures on their own and rely on the environment to keep them both warm and cool. By inhabiting the Australian region, which is notoriously warm and arid, blue-tongued skinks are able to regulate their body temperature and stay alive with little concern of trying to find an area in which to sun themselves.

What's This Blue Tongue All About?

You're probably wondering what the story behind the blue-tongue of the blue-tongued skink is. Since the blue-tongued skink is a small prey animal, it has a built-in defensive mechanism to help ward off predators. When blue-tongued skinks are threatened, they puff their body up to appear larger, and open their jaws wide, exposing their flat, blue tongues. This quick flash of color can sometimes startle predators and cause them to scurry away, while it warns others that the lizard may be poisonous. While the blue-tongued skink isn't poisonous, this imitation helps them remain safe in the wild.

Close-Up Of Blue Tongue Skink On Wall

Blue-Tongued Skinks Are Ovoviviparous

One of the strangest aspects of the blue-tongued skink is that they're ovoviviparous. This means that female blue-tongued skinks develop their offspring in eggs, but instead of laying the eggs somewhere in the wild to incubate, they incubate them inside of themselves. So, once the baby blue-tongued skinks are ready to hatch, they hatch inside of their mother and then she gives birth to the live babies. This is particularly unusual given that mammals are the only creatures who give birth to live children, and these blue-tongued skinks have adapted a similar, though decidedly different, reproductive mechanism.

Blue-Tongued Skinks Have Impressive Lifespans

Undisturbed and in their natural habitats, blue-tongued skinks can live between 20 to 30 years. Even in captivity, these reptiles have impressively long lifespans; pet blue-tongued skinks, if properly cared for, can live up to fifteen years.

Blue-Tongued Skinks Are Solitary Creatures

Unlike many creatures in the animal kingdom, blue-tongued skinks don't require a pack or a mate to live a thriving life. In fact, these reptiles prefer to live a solitary existence, only coming to meet with other blue-tongued skinks when it's time to reproduce every year.

Blue-Tongued Skinks Are Good Gardeners

Across the Australian landscape, gardeners love finding blue-tongued skinks in their tilled soil and plants because of their eating habits. These lizards are omnivores, so while they do enjoy eating vegetation - which does pose a problem for the vegetable tenderers of the world - they also eat snails and small insects that can have a harmful impact on crops and vegetation. In a way, blue-tongued skinks are a living, natural pesticide, helping to protect the flowering gardens of the South Pacific.

Blue-tongued skink (Tiliqua) among plants

Some Blue-Tongued Skinks Lose Their Tails

Most people remember their parents shouting at them to be careful when handling the small lizards in their back yards for fear that somehow these poor lizards' tails would get pulled off. While many a lizard has had their tail removed by an unwitting child, one species of the blue-tongued skink does so voluntarily. Eastern Blue-Tongues, especially younger ones, will sometimes drop their tail if they're handled roughly by it. Even more amazingly, these blue-tongued skinks can regenerate a shorter tail in its place.

Their Bold Behavior Belies a Docile Temperament

Despite their showy way of defending themselves, blue-tongued skinks are actually really docile and shy creatures. Since they're so easy-going, people can safely interact with them and even own them as pets. While wild creatures do belong in their natural habitats, should a blue-tongued skink need to be kept in captivity, they can be kept that way without worry of them hurting themselves or their handlers.

Woman holding a blue-tongued skink

Fascinating Blue-Tongued Skink Facts

Blue-tongued skinks are quite unique reptiles. Despite the threat of their eponymous blue-tongues, they're shy demeanors make them all the more endearing. The only terrible fact about the blue-tongued skink is that it's only native to Australia and the surrounding area, making it hard for most people, perhaps like yourself, to encounter them in the wild.

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Blue-Tongued Skink Facts: A Closer Look at a Curious Creature