Unexpected Encounters with Australian Reptiles #7 - Centralian Blue Tongue (Tiliqua Multifasciata)

Wednesday, May 09, 2012 at 21:22


Centralian Blue tongue Tiliqua Multifasciata

Blue-tongued skinks comprise the Australasian genus, Tiliqua, which contains some of the largest members of the skink family (Scincidae). They are commonly called blue-tongued lizards or simply blue-tongues in Australia. As suggested by these common names, a prominent characteristic of the genus is a large blue tongue that can be bared as a bluff-warning to potential enemies.

This species of skink occurs in the northern arid half of Australia, living terrestrially amongst sand dunes, plains and inland hills around vegetation of open shrubland, open woodland and hummock grassland. It also takes shelter in animal burrows, leaf litter and under stones. It has quite a robust body and large triangular shaped head, with a relatively short tail. Its colour is predominately brownish grey and has 11 to 13 narrow orange bands going across the body, and the tail has wider brown bands across it.

The upper limbs are usually black and there is a black streak across their temples. Their diet consists of soft plants, beetles, bugs, grasshoppers and carrion. Centralian Bluetongues can be nocturnal on warm nights. In summer an average litter of nine live young are born with their sizes varying greatly.

The Blue Tongue in Australian Aboriginal Mythology

Bluetongue Lizard is an old man in Australian Aboriginal mythology. He is a trickster and a powerful sorcerer as well. He is responsible for the Warlpiri fire ceremonies because of a myth involving him. He is often regarded as a deity, but this notion is not exactly true.

The Story:

"Bluetongue Lizard had two sons, and the three of them camped in the Place of Fire, which was known as Warlukurlangu. He pretended that he was blind so that his sons could go out and hunt for him. However, once they were gone, he would leave to hunt his own food, which he ate on the spot. The place he went hunting was Ngama, also known as the Cave of the Rainbow Snake. It was there he gained his sorcery skills. One day the two sons went hunting and killed a kangaroo, which they presented to their father to eat. The two sons did not know that this kangaroo was sacred and used to speak to Bluetongue Lizard, telling him secrets. Upon learning of the kangaroo, Bluetongue Lizard was filled with rage and summoned a magic fire, sending it after his sons. The fire followed them wherever they went. It would die down at night but start up again in the morning, driving Bluetongue Lizard's sons around all of the Jukurrpa. Finally the sons stopped at the Ngarra salt lake and drowned, too full of fatigue to go on".


''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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