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What Is a Blue-Tongued Skink?

A blue-tongued skink is a captivating reptile known for its distinctive cobalt tongue, which contrasts with its scaled body. Native to Australia, these gentle creatures are a favorite among pet enthusiasts for their docile nature. Intrigued by their unique defense mechanism and curious behavior? Dive deeper to uncover the fascinating world of the blue-tongued skink. What secrets does it hold?
Angie Bates
Angie Bates

A blue-tongued skink is a type of lizard that has a tubular body and short legs. There are about eight species of blue-tongued skink, all with distinctive vivid blue tongues. These lizards are found natively in Australia as well as New Guinea and Tasmania. Blue-tongued skinks are part of the tiliqua genus.

Like most skinks, blue-tongued skinks' short, thin legs generally do not raise their bodies off the ground, which — combined with their tubular bodies — causes them to resemble legged snakes. Though these lizards' coloring differs among species, they all have bright blue tongues. Like many reptiles, their tongues contain olfactory glands, so the blue-tongued skink uses its tongue to smell the air and find food.

Blue-tongued skinks are found throughout Australia, New Guinea, and Tasmania.
Blue-tongued skinks are found throughout Australia, New Guinea, and Tasmania.

The blue-tongued skink is active during the day. These lizards are omnivorous ground dwellers and spend most of their time hunting insects and snails or eating fruits and wildflowers. Despite their appearance, blue-tongued skinks can be agile and quick. Generally, skinks are shy and will retreat to shelter if they are approached.

Blue-tongued skinks are ovoviviparous, which means that they carry their eggs inside of the body. When the reptile gives birth, the eggs have thinned to just a membrane, which is absorbed into the young after birth. Although the young skinks technically are born live, ovoviviparous reptiles do not have live — or viviparous — births as mammals do.

Of all the species, the northern blue-tongued skink, Tiliqua scincoides intermedia, is the most popular in the pet trade. It is the largest, reaching lengths of 2 feet (0.6 m). Northern blue-tongues are also extremely docile, generally willing to be handled and less shy than many of the other species. Although they have claws, they do not tend to scratch. Even children can handle these lizards if they do so carefully.

The majority of blue-tongued skinks available in the pet trade are wild-caught. Wild caught skinks are not preferable for pets, not only because they might have unwanted parasites and are generally less sociable than the captive bred lizards, but also because removing animals from the wild decreases their wild populations — sometimes dramatically. The simplest way to determine whether a potential pet is wild-caught or captive-bred is to ask the breeder the date of the skink's birth. If the breeder cannot give the exact date, it is likely that the skink is wild-caught.

A pet blue-tongued skink generally will need a tank that holds 40-55 gallons (about 151-208 liters) tank lined with aspen or pine shavings or cypress mulch. The temperature in the tank should be kept at 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit (24-29.4 degrees Celsius) with a basking area slightly hotter than 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius). Ultraviolet B (UVB) lighting also is necessary.

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    • Blue-tongued skinks are found throughout Australia, New Guinea, and Tasmania.
      By: lesniewski
      Blue-tongued skinks are found throughout Australia, New Guinea, and Tasmania.