Of the 300 species of skinks native to Australia, the Blue-tongue lizard is the largest of all.
Blue-tongue lizards 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; 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 animal’s fat and water reserves are stored in the tail.
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.
The Blue-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 Blue-tongue is able to breed annually, 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 young mature 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-tongue lizards 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 and no blue tongue can go past a snail.
An adaptable lizard the Blue-tongue is able to adapt to living in suburbia. It is common in the gardens of home owners, and is considered an asset as it will keep the bug numbers down.
Lizards should never be relocated as they have a very specific territory.