Solomon Islands Skink

STATUSLeast Concern

COMMON NAME (SCIENTIFIC NAME)Tiliqua rugosa

DIETVegetable matter, insects, snails, carrion

RANGESouthern Australia

HABITATOpen country with cover, leaf litter, and hardy grasses

Solomon Islands Skink

NOTE: Education Animals are “behind-the-scenes” animals & only appear to the public during Educational events. This includes scheduled events or programs such as daily animal mingles, private onsite programs, and zoo reaches. For more information, please reach out to edureservations@lvzoo.org.

Program and General Information

The Solomon Islands Shingleback Skink is found in Australia in New South Wales from the Western slopes of the Great Dividing Range. They inhabit the drier parts of Southern Australia.

They are known by many names, including but not limited to: Stumpy-tailed lizards, Boggi, Sleepy lizards, Bobtail lizards, Two-headed lizards, Pinecone lizards

Common Physical Features

Shingleback Skinks are usually dark brown with yellow or white spots along their body. The belly of these skinks is usually pale with darker variegations. The eye is small and reddish-brown to grey. The tongue is a dark blue and the lining of the mouth is bright pink.

The Shingleback skink has a very large head, and a very short, blunt tail and large rough scales. Males have a proportionally larger head and stockier body than the females, but females grow slightly larger than males.

The scales of the body and tail are typ­i­cally very large in size, and have a rough, knobby ap­pear­ance, mak­ing this crea­ture greatly re­sem­ble a pine cone. Head scales are frag­mented and ir­reg­u­lar, mak­ing them dif­fi­cult to count and com­pare to other rep­tiles.

Habitat and Global Range

Southern Australia, semiarid plains and woodlands with harsh, dry summers and falls. They prefer to live among lots of ground cover such as tussock grasses or leaf litter.

Diet

The shingleback skink is omnivorous and is an opportunistic feeder, eating pretty much anything it finds. Its main diet consists of vegetable matter, such as herbs and seedlings, with any blossoms or fruits that it may come across. The rest of the diet consists of insects and other arthropods, snails, carrion, and basically any other edible thing that it is fortunate enough to come across.

Behavior and Life Cycle

When threatened, Shinglebacks turn towards the threat, open their mouth wide and stick out their broad blue tongue that contrasts vividly with the pink mouth. This display, together with the large size of the head, may frighten off predators. If the threat does not go away, Shinglebacks may hiss and flatten out the body, making themselves look bigger. A frightened Shingleback may bite if it is picked up.

Shingleback Lizards live alone for most of the year, but between September and November reunite as monogamous pairs. Shinglebacks in western New South Wales are often seen crossing roads in pairs, the male following the female. The same pairs may re-form in the mating season over several years.

The embryos develop in the female’s oviduct with the help of a placenta, which is as well-developed as that of many mammals. At birth, the young eat the placental membranes, and within a few days shed their skin for the first time. The young are ready to look after themselves straight after birth, and disperse within a few days.

The Shingleback has usually only two or three young that measure up to 220 mm in total length and weigh as much as 200 g.

Fun Facts

  • Abo­rig­i­nals have found  ru­gosato be a good source of food and some south­ern tribes of Aus­tralia used them med­i­c­i­nally. The shin­gle back skink also plays a small part in the world pet trade. Ex­por­ta­tion of this species from Aus­tralia is cur­rently pro­hib­ited but there are some pairs in the trade that have been pro­duc­ing cap­tive young for pri­vate col­lec­tions. These cap­tives com­mand a high price and are fairly rare to come across.
  • A reserve of fat is stored in its tail much like a camel stores fat in its hump. This is a valuable adaptation, as it lives in an arid climate marked by periods of drought.
  • The tail resembles the head and they use this as a defense to confuse potential predators. This adaptation is called self-mimicry.
  • This skink is also known as the stump-tailed skink, pinecone skink, bobtail skink, two-headed skink, sleepy skink and boggi.

Conservation Messaging

The Blue-Tongued Skink is not endangered, but the lizard is facing new threats from human disturbances. Feral dogs and cats have become a non-natural predator to young skinks.

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 ecosystems that requires attention. Going to zoos and other conservancies supports protection of even least concern species that are impacted by human disturbances such as invasive species.