© AMNH / Denis Finnin
Say you're a Blue-tongue 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, hiss and stick out their big blue tongues. This scares away predators.
Short legs make it hard for this animal to dig its own burrows. Blue-tongues tend to live in burrows made by other animals, in hollow logs or in leaf litter.
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 transparent window in the lower eyelid, so the animal can see with its eyes closed.
© Radford Arrindell / AMNH
Radiograph of skink with regrown tail
Most skinks can drop their tails when threatened by a predator, but not the Blue-tongue Skink.
The overlapping scales of the Blue-tongue Skink are large and smooth, creating a glassy appearance. They are supported by bony plates called osteoderms, which provide an extra layer of protection from predators. It's as if the skink were covered in a suit of body armor.
NAME: Blue-tongue Skink; Tiliqua scincoides
SIZE: 50 centimeters (1.5 feet)
DIET: Insects, snails, dead animals, flowers, fruits
Meet the Family
Scincidae is the largest lizard family. Its 1,200 or so species live on every continent but Antarctica, and they show great 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.
© Jim Merli / Visuals Unlimited
Sand fish-lizard (Scincus scincus)
Sandfish (Scincus scincus)
Many skinks, including this Sandfish, have smooth cylindrical bodies and flat, blunt heads. This remarkable species lives within sand dunes of the Sahara. It can sense insects on the surface from 15 centimeters (six inches) below.
© Stephen Dalton/Photo Researchers
Prehensile-tailed skink (Corucia zebrata)
Prehensile-Tailed SkinkCorucia zebrata
At nearly three feet, this is the largest skink. Active at night, it hangs by its tail from trees in tropical rainforest of the Solomon Islands. It eats mostly fruit and flowers, which it can digest thanks to bacteria in its gut.