Shingleback

Update of post from October 19, 2013

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The shingleback is a weird, medium-sized lizard living in Australia. There are several things that set them apart from other lizards. First of all, they are a lot more heavily built than most others. They also have a much shorter and stockier tail.

Another difference is that shinglebacks have much larger scales than other lizards do. Even larger lizards usually have smaller scales. The large, thick scales help protect them from predators and keep them from losing water in the dry climate they live in. They also make this lizard look almost like a closed pine cone, thus giving them one of their nicknames, the pinecone lizard.

These lizards are skinks, related to the more famous blue-tongued skink. Because of this, they are sometimes called shingleback skinks.

The shingleback’s tail is stocky because it is used to store extra fat. This way if it needs to go for a while without food, it can still survive. The shape of its tail is also beneficial to the lizard because predators sometimes confuse it for the animal’s head. They attack the lizard’s tail, and although this hurts, it is not deadly. The shingleback is then able to run away from the confused predator.

Size

These lizards are much larger than most lizards you would find in the United States. On average, the adults are between 14 and 16 inches (36-41 cm) in length. Of this, only about three inches (7.6 cm) is the tail! Some shinglebacks are a little larger at up to 18 inches (46 cm), but this is rare.

In regards to weight, these lizards have a much larger range. They can weigh anywhere from 1.3 to 2 pounds (0.6-0.9 kg).

Diet and hunting

Shinglebacks are omnivores, consuming both other animals and plant matter. Most of its diet consists of plants, including herbs, flowers, fruits, berries, and leaves.

The rest of their diet consists of animals, most of which are invertebrates. They are typically ambush predators, as they do not move fast enough to catch many animals.

Snails, a common prey of this lizard, are slow enough that the shinglebacks can chase them down. They can then use their powerful jaws to crush the snail’s shell. Other prey include spiders, insects, and carrion.

Habitat and range

The shingleback lives only in Australia, but they are currently the most abundant reptile on that continent! They inhabit most of this continent but especially prefer the desert areas in western Australia, a place where many animals cannot live.

Shinglebacks can survive in the desert for a number of reasons. First of all, they use the intense sunlight to warm up their bodies enough to move around. They also don’t move around much, and because of that, they don’t need to eat a lot of food to survive. That is good because there is not much food in the desert.

Status, threats, and protection

The shingleback has not been evaluated by any major conservation group. Based on what I could read about these animals, though, they seem to have a relatively healthy wild population.

Most of this is due to the fact that they have very few natural predators. Some of their predators include snakes, birds, cats, and dogs. The main threat to these animals is by far road casualties. It is estimated that almost 12 percent of the shingleback’s population is killed each year by automobiles!

While there is not much these lizards themselves can do to protect themselves against vehicles, they do have a few ways they can survive their natural predators. First of all, the adults have really thick scales that can keep many animals from harming them.

If threatened, it will hiss at the threat and display its shocking blue tongue. If the predator is not deterred by this display, a hard bite from the shingleback’s strong jaw may accomplish that purpose.

Reproduction and young

Shinglebacks are rare reptiles in that they “stay” with the same mate for life. I put the word “stay” in quotes because, although they mate with the same individual every year, they only interact with each other during the breeding season. This season usually occurs in late October and early November.

After about five months of development, the young are born live, another oddity about these lizards. There are usually two young, but sometimes the female will give birth to one or three.

The young are rather large compared to other baby reptiles, and at birth, the young combine to be about 30% of the female’s weight! For two young, this would mean that one baby weighs almost 1/6 the weight of an adult. If this were true with humans, our babies would weigh about 27 pounds (12.2 kg)!

The shinglebacks’ young being this large helps them stay safer from potential predators. It is estimated that their lifespan is between 10 and 15 years in the wild, but there is one captive individual that lived to be at least 35 years old!

Don’t forget to scroll down and comment your guess about what the next animal is!

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Sources:

 

Photo credits:

  • Shingleback – Benjamint444
  • Mystery animal – Public Domain
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