Wild - 25 years
Captive - 40 years
A Lizard with Two Heads!
The tail and head of the shingleback share a similar appearance which may help to distract predators which go to attack them. These animals are known by a wide range of names many of which are inspired by this 'double headed' appearance such as the double-headed lizard, stump-tail skink and bobtail.
Australia is the native home of the shingleback where they occur across much of the continent.
What does a Shingleback look like?
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.
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 the largest member of the blue tongue lizard family.
How does the Shingleback survive in its habitat?
Their large blue tongue serves as an adaptation which helps them to try and scare off potential predators. When threatened they open the mouth and show this to predators.
The coloration of the shingleback lizard serves as a form of camouflage against the ground covers which they move among.
What does a Shingleback eat?
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. When food is in abundance they may consume as much as 30% of their weight in a single day.
This species can obtain much of its water needs from the food they consume. As a result they may go as long as two weeks without drinking from free water.
Where do you the find the Shingleback?
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. In the East they do not tend to range past the Great Dividing Range keeping them away from the coastline in these areas.
Where can a Shingleback survive?
They occupy a wide range of habitats including mallee woodland, shrubland, semiarid grassland plains, coastal dunes and eucalypt forests.
How does a Shingleback produce its young?
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).
They will first breed between three and four years old.
What does the Shingleback do during its day?
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
What stops the Shingleback from surviving and thriving?
Natural predators include the dingo, birds of prey such as the laughing kookaburra, reptiles such as goannas 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. Another defence is to hide among a hollow log or rock.
Their tail being shaped like the head confuses predators.
Humans pose a threat through hitting them with lawnmowers and brushcutters. This species will also suffer as a result of poisoning through baits laid for snails. Inappropriate fire regimes will remove the ground cover which these reptiles require to survive.
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. They are among one of the most illegally traded reptiles in Australia and are regularly found being smuggled from the country.
They have many other common names including the stumpy tailed skink, sleepy lizard, bobtail, pine cone lizard, bob-eye and two-headed lizard.
The shingleback lizard was the first species of reptile described by Europeans during their trips to Australia. The first individual was sighted in 1699 in what is now Western Australia.
The rugosa portion of their common name comes from a word meaning 'wrinkled.'
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