COMMON NAME (SCIENTIFIC NAME)Tiliqua rugosa
DIETInsects, spiders, snails, carrion, fruit, flowers, and berries
HABITATDesert grasslands, shrublands, and sandy dunes
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Program and General Information
Shingleback skinks are native to the desert grasslands, shrublands, and sandy dunes of Australia. They are a large lizard with a sturdily built body and relatively large head. They grow to 12-18 inches in length. Coloration differs from light brown streaks to earthy tones and darker coloration. They use their bright blue tongues to hunt prey, ward off predators, and attract a mate. Shingleback Skinks are solitary lizards that only meet in the spring or winter to breed. These skinks are ovoviviparous and females give birth to 10-20 live young about 100 days after reproduction. Skinks take about 3 years to mature. Because of their docile nature and relatively decent size, skinks have become popular pets. By purchasing and owning an exotic animal, you could be supporting the illegal exotic pet trade so be sure to do your research and only purchase from reputable breeders.
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, as well as most vegetables. Their diets at the zoo include insects, vegetables, and fruits, as well as a mouse every other week.
Much like a snake, skinks will use their tongue to sniff out their prey by tasting the air and using their Jacobson’s organ to determine the location of their prey.
Skinks store fat reserves in their tails to use when food is scarce. They draw upon these reserves during the winter when they begin a hibernation-like period called brumation.
Habitat and 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. They bask in the sun early in the day to raise their body temperature, then move off to forage for food. They retreat to their shelter at the end of the day to sleep among leaf litter or under rocks and logs.
Common Physical Features
The Shingleback Skink is a large lizard reaching up to 12-18 inches long. They have 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 and closely resembles the head. Their scales are supported by bony plates called osteoderms that give them extra protection from predators. Their unique scales not only add extra protection, but also help the skinks blend in with their environment since they look just like pinecones!
Adaptations: Shingleback skinks have unique adaptations that allow them to catch prey and avoid predators. Just like their close relative, the blue-tongued skink, shingleback skinks also have a bright, blue- colored tongue. They use their tongues to sniff out prey, find mates, and escape from predators. Like other reptile species, shingleback skinks have a Jacobson’s organ in the roof of their mouth. They will stick out their tongue in order to pick up scent particles in the air or from the surface of objects. They will then bring those particles into their mouth to the Jacobson’s organ, which will process the information from the scents. This information can help find potential mates, prey, or predators.
Their blue tongue isn’t just for sniffing! Because they are not quick enough to escape potential predators, blue-tongued skinks will employ a few fascinating defense mechanisms. When threatened, shingleback skinks will open their mouths wide and stick out their bright, blue tongue. Bright colors in the wild tend to indicate that an animal is either poisonous or venomous, like our poisonous, brightly colored dart frogs. The shingleback skink is neither poisonous nor venomous but uses its bright tongue to trick predators into thinking it is.
Shingleback skinks’ tails closely resemble their heads. This is a defense mechanism used to confuse their predators. If under threat, they will wiggle their tail to draw the attention away from their head. A shingleback’s tail is fat storage. Unlike many other skink species, shingleback skinks cannot drop their tail. If they lose their tail they will not be able to grow it back.
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 even tend to bruise females. Shingleback skinks are ovoviviparous which means that females will lay eggs inside their bodies. The eggs hatch inside the body and the mother will give birth to live young. The mother can then reabsorb all of the nutrients left behind from the eggs inside her body. After reproduction occurs, females will give birth to 2-3 live young 100 days later. Several days to a few weeks after birth, baby skinks will begin to explore on their own eating slow-moving insects and licking fruit when available. They take 3 years to mature.
Purposeful Pet Ownership
Although a relatively large-sized lizard, shingleback skinks are incredibly docile and rarely bite unless threatened. This has made them quite popular in the pet trade. Many people don’t realize, however, just how much work goes into caring for reptile species. Reptiles require specific lighting, humidity, space, nutrients, substrate, heating, and if they do not receive the proper care then that reptile’s health can decline rapidly. It can be difficult to find veterinarians that are equipped to care for reptiles if they get sick.
By purchasing and owning an exotic animal, you could be supporting the illegal exotic pet trade. Oftentimes these exotic pets are taken out of their natural habitat to be sold in the pet trade, which can be detrimental to wild populations. One more exotic pet in captivity is one less animal in the wild which is resulting in species population numbers dropping drastically.
What can we do?: Be sure to fully research any pet before buying one. While you may think a reptile would make a cool pet, it’s important to know all of the care that goes into providing that animal with the best possible welfare, and as mentioned before reptiles require a lot of extra care. It is important to make sure that if you do buy an exotic pet that you are buying it from a reputable breeder, someone who knows how to properly care for the animal and hasn’t taken that animal from its natural habitat.
Do not release an unwanted pet into the wild. While you may think that you are doing something good by releasing the animal back into the wild, animals that have been kept under human care often do not know how to survive on their own out in the wild and could end up getting hurt or dying if left to their own devices.