Say you're a Shingleback Skink and you want to scare an animal away. What to do? Just stick out your tongue!
This skink and its relatives have blue tongues--why? When threatened, these animals open their bright pink mouths wide and stick out their big blue tongues. This scares away predators.
To block light or keep out dirt, this skink, like many lizards, moves its lower lid up, rather than its upper lid down. Some lizards have a clear window in the lower eyelid, so the animal can see with its eyes closed.
The Shingleback has a short, stumpy tail shaped a lot like its head. Unlike most skinks, it can't shed its tail. But perhaps having a tail-shaped head confuses predators, leading them to wonder "Which end is which?" In that moment of hesitation, the skink may escape.
Most skinks can drop their tails when threatened by a predator, but not the Shingleback.
Some skinks, including the young Five-lined Skink (Eumeces fasciatus), even use their brightly colored tails to distract predators. Then they leave the tail behind and run away.
The scales of the Shingleback Skink are large, like those of most Skinks. But most Skinks have smooth, overlapping scales and a glassy appearance. Those of the Shingleback Skink are keeled, or ridged.
Meet the Family
Scincidae is the largest lizard family. Its 1,200 or so species live on every continent but Antarctica, and they show astounding diversity. Some skinks live in treetops and others in underground burrows. Some can run fast and some don't even have legs. Skinks without legs look snakelike, but they have features that tell you they're not snakes. For instance, most legless skinks have eyelids and external ears.
NAME: Shingleback Skink; Tiliqua rugosa
SIZE: Up to 35 centimeters (14 inches)
RANGE: Southern Australia
DIET: Insects, invertebrates, plants