Blue-tongued skinks are members of the genus Tiliqua. They are native to Australia and Indonesia.
You may be wondering if these amazing lizards are poisonous, venomous, or otherwise dangerous to humans.
Are Blue-Tongued Skink Poisonous?
Blue-tongued skinks are not poisonous. They are also not venomous, but their bite is painful due to their strong jaws.
For a complete guide to enclosure setup, feeding, daily care and breeding,
check out my Blue Tongue Skink Care Sheet.
Poisonous Vs Venomous
Many people use poisonous to ask if an animal produces venom.
While there is not a distinction in many languages, in English these are separate terms. If an animal is poisonous, this means that a predator would be made seriously ill or even die if it tries to eat the poisonous animal.
Some animals like poison dart frogs and the pitohui can be dangerous just to touch. Some animals make their own poison, while others including many species of butterfly gain their poison from their diet.
Captive dart frogs aren’t poisonous since they are not fed the same diet. There are poisonous reptiles. For instance, the red-sided garter snake eats a poisonous species of newt.
The snake stores this toxin to make its flesh poisonous to potential predators. Garter snakes also have a mild venom.
Venomous animals typically have toxic saliva. Venomous reptiles have modified salivary glands that produce a mix of toxins to help subdue prey.
Venomous snakes tend to be most obvious since they have very specialized teeth to help them deliver their venom. Gila monsters are an example of a venomous lizard. It has recently been determined that Komodo dragons and possibly all species of monitor lizard may also be venomous.
While they don’t have specialized fangs to deliver venom, they can deliver their toxins in a bite.
This is still being investigated.
More lizards may be revealed to be venomous over time. Future studies may prove that more types of lizards are also venomous. This is most likely in species that are predators.
Are Blue-Tongued Skinks Venomous or Poisonous?
The short answer is no. Blue-tongued skinks are not poisonous or venomous. They can’t deliver a toxin to a potential predator with their bite. Their flesh is also not toxic.
However, pretending to be dangerous is part of their natural defense. Blue-tongued skinks have very bright tongues on average.
A skink that feels that it is in danger will lift its head and display that bright tongue. Bright colors in nature are most common in venomous or poisonous animals. This bright color says “hey, messing with me is a bad idea!”
However, not all animals with bright colors are toxic. They do try to use their bright colors to trick potential predators into thinking they are a threat.
This can help otherwise harmless animals to avoid predation without having to invest the energy to create or store a toxin.
While it is a risky strategy, pretending that you are dangerous to eat can help more animals survive an encounter with a predator.
Blue-tongued skinks have a range of defensive behaviors they will use to try to avoid being harmed. Showing their tongue is one part.
Blue-tongued skinks will also try to mimic a snake if there are birds nearby. Blue-tongued skinks have a parietal eye on the top of their head.
This can detect changes in light and allows the skink to notice predators above them even if their main eyes haven’t spotted a potential threat.
If the skink notices a bird or other predator, it will stretch its body out and tuck its limbs close. Since skinks have such long bodies, this can trick a predator into thinking that the skink is a snake.
The banded pattern common to many species of blue-tongued skink also helps sell the illusion. Attempting to look more like a dangerous animal is a common defensive strategy among many animals.
If all these tricks don’t work, a skink that can’t hide has one last defense. Blue-tongued skinks have very strong jaws. If a skink is threatened, it may swing around and try to take a bite out of whatever wants to eat them.
Since they have such long and flexible bodies, there are very few places that would make a skink incapable of biting an attacker.
Bites from blue-tongued skinks are very painful.
Predators can’t risk being injured and unable to catch food in the future. This means that if a prey animal can fight back, it has a much higher chance of escaping the encounter alive.
The final defensive measure is very common in many lizards. Blue-tongued skinks are capable of autotomy.
This is when a lizard drops its tail to distract a predator. Lizards that can do this have what is known as fracture planes in their tail. When the lizard drops the tail, it will split at this fracture plane.
The muscles in the area are also specialized and will stop heavy blood loss from occurring. Blue-tongued skinks rarely drop their tails.
It tends to be an extreme last resort and most animals will only do so if there is no other choice. The dropped tail will wiggle around to allow the skink a chance to escape.
They can grow back the tail. However, they will replace the missing bone with cartilage. This means that the tail won’t be exactly like what they lost.
It can have different colors or patterns than the original tail. It may also be misshapen or shorter than the original tail.
Blue-tongued skinks are not poisonous or venomous. They just want you and other potential predators to think so. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.