Skinks Defend Themselves by Sticking Their Tongues Out

Image: Benjamint444, Wikimedia Commons

These unique reptiles open gaping pink mouths and wag their bright blue tongues to scare away predators — often with astounding success.

Blue-tongued skinks are native to Australia and persist primarily in open fields equipped with tall grasses, logs, and shrubs for hiding. While there are six different species of blue-tongued lizards in total, the most common are grey with thick brown stripes and grow to about twelve inches in length. These skinks boast large heads in comparison to the rest of their bodies.

Skinks are ground-rummaging omnivores that meander slowly across the ground to feed on insects such as caterpillars, slugs, snails and a variety of flora including flowers, fruits, and berries. Similar to other reptiles, blue-tongued skinks are ectotherms and absorb heat from the surrounding environment, resulting in predominantly diurnal activity. They maintain an average active body temperature of about 30°C – 35°C. 

Image: JJ Harrison via Wikimedia Commons

While they appear quite bland on the outside, upon closer observation these skinks reveal their most unusual characteristic: a large, pink mouth and bright blue tongue that can be extended far beyond the length of its snout.

When a blue-tongued skink is threatened by a predator, it performs an amazing defensive bluff by turning to face the predator head-on, opening its vast mouth, and wagging it’s brightly colored tongue. This dramatic performance is intended to surprise and scare off the attacker.

When unsuccessful, these skinks are capable of flattening their bodies and hissing loudly, which adds another element of dramatization to their defensive arsenal. Lastly, a blue-tongued skink will resort to biting, and their strong jaw muscles and large teeth can pack a powerful punch. 

Watch a blue-tongued skink in action:

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