Shingleback Fact File


The shingleback is covered with hard, overlapping scales across their entire body. These are variable in color with most being black which is patterned with white, orange or yellow scales. On occasion these patterns form bars across their body.

Their tough scales help them to retain body water and survive in arid areas.

On the underside of the body the color can vary from being the same as the rest of their body or being cream with dark bars.

They have a broad, triangular head. One of their most prominent features is the wide, blue tongue. When threatened they open the mouth and show this to predators. This is used to try and scare off predators.

At the end of their body is a large, round tail. This gives rise to one of their alternative names, the stumpy tailed skink. Unlike many skinks they are not able to lose their tail.

On either side of the body are two short limbs. On each of these are five short toes.

Their body measures between 30 and 35cm (12-14in) long. They have an average weight of between 600 and 900g (21.2-31.7oz). Males often have a larger head and stockier body than a female while the female is bigger overall.


They are an omnivore and will opportunistically feed on anything they come across. Main items in their diet may include leaves, berries, flowers, fruits, insects and carrion (dead animals).

Their strong jaw allows them to crush snails and beetles.

Excess food is stored in the tail to help them survive through times of food scarcity.


Scientific Name

Tiliqua rugosa

Conservation Status

Least Concern


600-900g (21.2-31.7oz)


30-35cm (12-14in)


Wild 20-25 years

Captive 40 years




Australia is the native home of the shingleback. Here they can be found across the south of the country in Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria.


They occupy a wide range of habitats including mallee woodland, shrubland, semiarid grassland plains, coastal dunes and eucalypt forests.


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Breeding pairs will come together in the spring to mate. Males will trail the females in their attempt to find a mate. Once they do find a mate they often stay together for life.

Females give birth from December to April.

The gestation period is between three and five months long after which the female will give birth to between one and three young. Unlike most reptiles they give birth to live young. Instead young develop in the oviduct attached to a placenta that is similar to that of many mammals.

After birth the young will eat the placenta and within a few days can look after themselves and will disperse. They shed their skin for the first time soon after birth.

Young are quite large at birth measuring 220mm (8.7in) long and weighing 700g (24.7oz).


These animals are solitary for most of the year only coming together with their mate for the breeding season.

They are reliant on the sun to produce body heat.

Shingleback skinks are active by day. They will bask in the sun during the morning and spend the afternoon foraging. At night they will take shelter under leaf litter, rocks or logs.

During periods of cold weather they will be mostly inactive and spend their time buried in a sheltered area. On days of sunny weather during these periods they may come out and bask. They can survive their periods of inactivity due to the fat store in their tail.

Throughout the year they will regularly shed their skin.


Predators and Threats

Natural predators include the dingo, birds of prey such as the laughing kookaburra and large snakes such as the red-bellied black snake and eastern brown snake. Introduced predators such as dogs, cats and the red fox also pose a threat.

When threatened they will turn to the predator and open their mouth. This shows their blue tongue which contrasts with the pink mouth and may scare off the predator. They will also hiss and flatten their body so they look bigger.

Their tail being shaped like the head confuses predators.

Humans pose a threat through hitting them with lawnmowers and brushcutters.

One of the main threats is vehicle strike. They will bask on the road as it warms up quickly and helps them to regulate their body temperature.

They may be collected in small numbers for the pet trade.

Quick facts

They have many other common names including the stumpy tailed skink, sleepy lizard, bobtail, pine cone lizard and two-headed lizard.


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Photo Credits

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Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Smith, J., 2016. Wildlife Of Greater Adelaide. Stepney, S.A.: Axiom Publishers.

Swanson, S. and Parish, S., 2011. Field Guide To Australian Reptiles. 2nd ed. New South Wales: Pascal Press.

Australian Reptile Park – Wildlife Park Sydney & Animal Encounters Australia. 2020. Shingleback Habitat, Diet & Reproduction – Reptile Park. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 19 November 2020]. 2020. Shingleback. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 19 November 2020].

Loch, T. 2000. “Tiliqua rugosa” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 18, 2020 at

Australia Zoo. 2020. Check Out Our Shingleback Skink At Australia Zoo. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 19 November 2020].

2020. Shingleback. [ebook] Moonlit Sanctuary, pp.1-2. Available at: <> [Accessed 19 November 2020].

Sanderson, C., Lloyd, R., Craig, M. & Gaikhorst, G. 2017. Tiliqua rugosa. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T109481513A109481530. Downloaded on 18 November 2020.

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