Shingleback Skink

STATUSLeast Concern


DIETPlant material, small insects

RANGESouthern Australia

HABITATShrubland, marine coastal, forest

Shingleback Skink

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Program and General Information
The Shingleback Skink is a lizard native to southern Australia. It has thick scales that give it the appearance of roof shingles with colors that can include beige, tan, brown, black, and orange. The skink is a larger lizard that can be a bit more than a foot long and weigh about a pound. It lives in shrublands and forests, as well as the desert. The skink is omnivorous and typically eats flowers, bugs, snails, and other fleshy leaves. The skink uses its tongue to smell for prey, predators, mates, and to ward off predators. When it is time to mate, the males are aggressive and fight for females. The females are ovoviviparous and give birth to as many as 20 live young. Its conservation status is of Least Concern but it is still threatened by human disturbances and species including feral cats and dogs.

Common Physical Features
The Shingleback Skink is a large lizard with a sturdily built body and relatively large head. Coloration differs from light brown streaks to earthy tones and darker coloration. The Shingleback Skink has a stumpy tail that is typically the same color as its body. The lizard has a dark blue tongue which acts as a form of defense. Their scales are supported by bony plates called osteoderms that give them extra protection from predators.

Habitat and Global Range
Shingleback Skinks live in Australia. They commonly live in semi-desert ecosystems with burrows. They also live in grasslands and shrublands and use leaf litter or logs to hide. Skinks are ground-dwelling animals and typically use burrows to escape predators and the scorching heat.

Shingleback Skinks are omnivores that eat a mixture of vegetables and protein, with minimal fruit. In the wild, they eat a variety of bugs, snails, flowers, and fleshy leaves. Under human care, they can eat many types of protein including pinky mice, mealworms, insects, turkey, chicken, and lean beef. They can eat most vegetables as well. Under human care at the Lehigh Valley Zoo, skinks get a Mazuri Leaf Eater Biscuit twice a week as a supplement, in addition to dust insects with Repashy Calcium Plus once a week. In addition to these supplements, their regular diets include insects, vegetables, and fruits, as well as a mouse every other week.

Behavior and Life Cycle
Shingleback Skinks are solitary lizards that only meet in the spring or winter to breed. Males are very aggressive and fight other males for a chance to breed. During copulation, they tend to even bruise females. After reproduction, females give birth 100 days later to 10 to 20 live young. They are ovoviviparous which means the eggs are hatched inside the parent and then the mother gives live birth. The baby skinks will take 3 years to mature.

Although a relatively large species of lizard, Shingleback Skinks are incredibly docile. In fact, their friendly nature has led them to be a very popular reptile in the pet community. They rarely bite but, like all animals, will defend themselves if they feel threatened. They are not quick enough to outrun most predators, so they have developed a fascinating defense technique. The Shingleback Skink, when threatened, sticks out and expands its dark blue tongue. Colors like this usually indicate an animal is either venomous or poisonous. While the Shingleback Skink is neither, it can fool predators to avoid being eaten long enough to escape.

Fun Facts

  • The Shingleback Skink goes by many nicknames, including the “Pinecone Skink”, “Lazy Skink”, and “Stumpy-Tailed Skink”.
  • It is not poisonous but its blue tongue tricks predators into thinking that it is.
  • Skinks may look like snakes, but they have external ear holes and eyelids which makes them lizards.
  • They are threatened by invasive species of feral cats and dogs in the wild.
  • The Shingleback Skink uses its tongue to detect food, predators, and potential mates.
  • They are ovoviviparous which means they give birth to live young that hatch from eggs inside their mother.
  • They commonly eat snails or insects but under human care they can eat ground turkey, beef, and chicken.

Conservation Messaging
The Shingleback Skink is not endangered, but the lizard is facing new threats from human disturbances. Feral dogs and cats have become an unnatural predator to young skinks. Certain skink populations are decreasing due to these natural and unnatural threats.

As a zoo, we keep this organism to educate the Lehigh Valley about the lizard. While it is not native to our area, it provides a significant role in Australia’s ecosystem that requires attention. Visiting zoos and other conservancies supports protection of even Least Concern species that are impacted by human disturbances.

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