Cool lizard Pictures
The reason is that these big friendly skinks are very slow moving. They are easy to observe and easy to catch. Something that can't be said for many other lizards.
I had no problem getting close enough to this blue tongued lizard (it's one of several living in my garden) to get a picture of its vivid blue tongue.
Blue tongue lizards quickly become used to humans. (That's one reason why they are so popular as pets.)
But even if they've never seen any humans before they are likely to just sit there and let you pick them up when you see one. (Though they don't really like being handled. They prefer firm ground under their feet. I don't blame them.)
Let's have a closer look at these gentle creatures, their habits and their habitat, and the way they use their blue tongue.
Australian Blue Tongue Lizard Species
There are six species of blue-tongued lizards or skinks in Australia. They vary a bit in colour and size, but most commonly they are grey with broad brown stripes across their back and tail, and they grow to around a foot in length (that's just the head and body, not the tail).
Common or Eastern Blue-tongue Lizard (Tiliqua scincoides scincoides): this one is widespread in the south east of Australia and looks just as described above, grey with dark stripes.
Northern Blue-tongued Skink (Tiliqua scincoides intermedia): belonging to the same species, this form is at home on the savannahs of Australia's tropical regions. (And in my garden. You can see one in the photos at the top).
Western blue-tongued skink (Tiliqua occipitalis): listed as vulnerable
Central blue-tongued skink (Tiliqua multifasciata): listed as vulnerable
Blotched Blue-tongue (Tiliqua nigrolutea): another species from the south west, this one is restricted to the highland areas. It looks slightly different, being dark brown with light coloured blotches across the back.
Shingleback (Tiliqua rugosa): the Shingleback has many names, like Bob-tailed Lizard, Sleepy Lizard or Stumpy-tailed Lizard. It can be found west of the Great Dividing Range. It's the most unusual looking of the blue-tongue lizards with its very short, stumpy tail and large rough scales. The Shingleback too is dark brown, with or without blotches.
Pygmy Blue-tongue Skink (Tiliqua adelaidensis): as you probably guessed, the Pygmy Blue-tongue is a little fellow, growing to about 90 mm. It was considered to be extinct until it was rediscovered near Burra (mid-north of South Australia). The species is confined to that very small area north of Adelaide and is listed as endangered.
Australian Blue-Tongue Lizard Facts
Blue tongues have somewhat unusual body proportions: a big head and long body with very short legs and small feet. Their evenly tapering tail is fat and shorter than the body.
Male lizards have a proportionally larger head than females, but the females are bigger overall.
The most noticeable feature of these lizards is the blue tongue inside the bright pink mouth.
Like all reptiles they do not produce any body heat. Their body temperature depends on the surrounding temperature and they can be found sun basking in the mornings or during cooler days. On cold days they remain inactive in their shelter. (They need a body temperature of 30 to 35°C to be active.)
Their diet consists of plant matter and small animals. That can be beetles, caterpillars, crickets, snails and even other small lizards. Anything they can get hold of will do. But they are not very fast, so they usually eat slower critters. They are very partial to slugs and snails. Oh, and they steal dog food...
Blue-tongue lizards have strong jaw muscles to crush big beetles and snail shells. They may also bite in defence when they feel threatened.
The blue tongue's main defence strategy is bluff:
It faces the threat and opens its mouth. The blue tongue inside the pink mouth is an unexpected and vivid sight, designed to frighten off the attacker.
The lizard also hisses loudly and flattens its body which makes it look wider and bigger.
If you pick the lizard up now it will bite you. And it will hurt. Blue tongues have a habit of latching onto your finger and not letting go, which leaves you with a nice bruise.
Blue-tongued Lizard Habitat And Life Cycle
Blue-tongues occur across most of Australia. They like open country with lots of cover like tall grasses, leaf litter, rocks and logs, low shrubs etc. under which they will shelter at night. (They also like burrows).