Blue tongue lizards come in a variety of sizes and colours but they all have distinctive blue tongues. Their blue tongue is a defensive mechanism. When the lizard is threatened it sticks out its large blue tongue and hisses loudly to scare off predators. This is usually enough to scare many predators into thinking this lizard is dangerous. Actually it is quite harmless.
Blue tongue lizards are the biggest members of the skink family known as Tiliqua. It can grow to about 60cm in length. It has a smooth body covered in overlapping scales. Colours vary by species. The Eastern Blue-Tongue for example is usually grey in colour with brown stripes across its back and tail. It has a large triangular head with reddish-brown eyes. The Shingleback or Stumpy-Tailed lizard has a short stumpy tail and is dark brown. The scientific name for the blue tongued lizard is Tiliqua scincoides scincoides.
Like other skinks, if grabbed by the tail it may shed its tail in an attempt to placate its predator and escape. The stump heals quickly and a new, usually shorter, tail regrows in its place. The blue tongue lizard stores excess fat and water in its tail. The loss of its tail during lean times could lead to death by starvation.
The blue tongued lizard is a slow moving animal which is not overtly scared of humans. In fact these lizards get used the presence of humans very quickly and go about their business unperturbed. Blue-tongues are long lived. Some live for over twenty years.
All Blue tongued lizards are daytime feeders. All except for the pygmy blue-tongue, are foraging omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals. They feed on insects, snails and slugs, fruits, berries and flowers. The pygmy blue-tongue is the only one which actively hunts its prey which are mostly insects.
They have large teeth and a powerful bite that can crush hard-shelled creatures such as beetles and snails.
Blue tongue lizards are found all over Australia. They live in open country with good ground cover such as areas with tall grass, leaf litter, rocks, etc. This environment offers them protection from extremes in temperature and from predators. These lizards are territorial living in a fixed area, usually of about a hectare in size and rarely venturing out of its territory.
Being cold-blooded animals, they start their day by basking in the sun to warm themselves before setting off in search of food. During cold weather they remain in their shelters beneath logs, rocks or crevices.
Blue tongue lizards are solitary animals that prefers to live alone. It is only during the mating session between September and November that males actively look for females. Males compete and fight aggressively with each other to mate with a female.
Female blue-tongues do not lay eggs. Instead the embryos develop in the mother's oviduct attached to a placenta. The female gives birth, three to five months after mating, to a litter of about 10 live baby lizards. The young are fully functional at birth and set out on their own a few days after birth. A blue tongue reaches adulthood in about three years.
While most humans usually leave these harmless animals alone, sometimes humans too cause lizard deaths by accidentally running over them with lawn mowers and cars. Poisoned bait used to kill snails and slugs can also be fatal the blue tongue lizards which may eat a poisoned snail and die.
Most species of blue tongued lizards are common throughout Australia. Some such as the Western Blue Tongue and Central Blue Tongue lizards are classified as vulnerable.
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