Boisterous blue tongue lizards
Roaming the deserts, woodlands and forests, excluding rainforests of Australia are a group of iconic skinks- the blue tongue lizards. Due to their gentle nature in captivity blue tongue lizards, or “bluies” make excellent pets and have been popular with Australians for a very long time. Most people that grew up outside the cities are very familiar with at least one of the species.
Obviously the feature the blue tongue lizards are known for is the… blue tongues of all of the species. This marvelous piece of equipment serves more than one purpose. First of all it is used much like the tongue of a snake, the lizard flicks it in and out of the mouth to taste the air as it moves along in search of food. Secondly, when alarmed blue tongue lizards lift the head, flatten the body and flash the tongue at the threat. If that fails, the lizard follows up with a nasty bite. There is a rumor going around that these lizards may have some rudimentary venom, which seems unlikely but there may at least be some nasty bacteria present in the mouth. Old timers say that a bite from a blue tongue will re-appear once a year but this remains to be proven.
Classification of blue tongue lizards
Blue tongues belong to the family Scincidae, the skinks; and the species we are looking at all fall under the Tiliqua genus: the “true blue tongues”. There are other “blue tongue lizards” and “pink tongue lizards” belonging to the genus Cyclodomorphus.
There are several species in Australia and New Guinea, only the pygmy blue tongue lizards are small, all of the others are large, impressive skinks and some grow to in excess of 40cm.
- Pygmy blue tongue – Tiliqua adelaidensis
- Eastern blue tongue – Tiliqua scincoides
- Blotched blue tongue – Tiliqua nigrolutea
- Centralian blue tongue – Tiliqua multifasciata
- New Guinea blue tongue – Tiliqua gigas
- Western blue tongue – Tiliqua occipitalis
- Shingleback – Tiliqua rugosa
- Irian Jaya blue tongue – Tiliqua sp
Blue tongue lizards as pets
Blue tongue lizards make great pets and are super easy to keep, and as such are very popular, especially with children. Feeding them is no great drama as they eat everything from berries and bananas to insects and even snails. In captivity they rarely if ever bite and become very easy to handle. Wild caught specimens as pets is usually illegal and they carry parasites and are hard to handle anyway, so best find one of the thousands of legal breeders to get yours. As a bonus if a female gets pregnant you don’t have to worry about egg incubation as they are live bearers!