All blue tongue skinks belong to the genus Tiliqua, which can be found throughout Indonesia and Australia. This is a brief overview of 11 commercially available blue tongue skink subspecies, with a few notes on each. It should be noted that Australian species are much more difficult to acquire (in the US) due to strict exportation laws.
Indonesian Blue Tongue Skink Subspecies
Wild caught animals are referred to as “WC,” and captive bred are referred to as “CB.” All Indonesian blue tongue skink subspecies are typically wild caught (WC), since exporting animals out of Indonesia is not illegal.
Classic Indonesian (Tiliqua gigas gigas):
Classic Indonesians are identifiable by their earthy yellow or greenish coloring, speckling between bands, solid black forelimbs, and thin black markings on the head.
Halmahera Indonesian (Tiliqua gigas gigas):
Though they are the same subspecies as the Classic, Halmaheras are recognized as different because of their reddish coloring (sometimes gray) and thin black markings on the head. The easiest way to tell between a Merauke and a Halmahera is by looking at the belly; Halmaheras have a patterned black and white or black and pink belly.
Irian Jaya (Tiliqua ssp):
Irian Jayas are the oddballs of the Tiliqua genus. They’re definitely blue tongue skinks, but they’re taxonomically incomplete at the moment. They tend to have speckled forelimbs and brown bands with minimal speckling in-between, but not always, as this type of blue tongue skink demonstrates extreme variation between individuals. Bands can also be deep auburn, orange, or gray, and there have been confirmed Irian Jayas with unpatterned forelimbs.
When in doubt, if yours doesn’t seem like any of the other species and subspecies described on this page, your skink may well be an Irian Jaya.
Kei Island (Tiliqua gigas keyensis):
Kei Island blue tongues are another subspecies of Tiliqua gigas. But they are one of my favorites, distinguished by their unique freckled appearance that extends to the head.
Merauke (Tiliqua gigas evanescens):
These can be distinguished by freckling on both arms and legs, distinct banding along the length of the body (most specimens lack freckling in-between, but not all), and a salmon orange-colored belly with little to no freckling. Meraukes also tend to have the longest abdomen and tail of all Tiliqua species. They also generally have a calmer disposition than other Indonesian species.
Tanimbar (Tiliqua scincoides chimaera):
Tanimbars are known for their extremely hard and glossy scales, with a feisty temperament to boot (although captive-bred individuals are said to be much more tolerant of humans). They are typically silver, gray, or yellow in color, and are known for producing large clutches of over 20 live-born babies.
Australian Blue Tongue Skink Subspecies
Australian species of blue tongue skink are more difficult to get in the United States, as extremely strict laws all but prevent export. So while they tend to be more tame due to captive breeding, they are also much more expensive.
Blotched (Tiliqua nigrolutea):
Blotched blue tongues grow up to 24″ (60 cm) long and tend to have longer lifespans—up to 30 years. They are native to southeastern Australia, preferring wet and dry sclerophyll forests, montane woodlands and coastal heathlands for habitat.
Highland blotchies have yellow, orange, and red blotches contrasting with a black background. Lowland blotchies have a similar pattern, but they tend to be much less colorful.
Fun fact: T. nigrolutea was identified as among the fossils in the Pleistocene fossil sites at Naracoorte Caves National Park, South Australia, proving that this species has been around for at least 12,000 years!
Centralian (Tiliqua multifasciata):
Centralian blueys grow about 15-18 inches long, with a short tail, stout body, and large head. They possess very distinct black bands behind each eye, but banding along the length of the body tends to be thin and yellow, orange, red, or light brown in color.
Eastern (Tiliqua scincoides scincoides):
Eastern skinks grow about 18-24 inches long and are the most common blue tongue skink in Australia. Like the Western, they feature bold dark bands behind the eyes, but the banding along the body is less distinct.
In the wild, they can be found in bushland and suburban areas, wherever conditions are deemed suitable.
Northern (Tiliqua scincoides intermedia):
Northerns are the most popular blue tongue skink species, having become very tame through generations of captive breeding. They are identifiable by a lack of banding behind the eye, yellow or orange oval splotches along the sides, and solid gray or beige forelimbs. They grow up to 24″ (60 cm) long and tend to be the largest and heaviest of all blue tongue skinks.
Northerns are the easiest Australian species to find in the United States.
Shingleback/Bobtail (Tiliqua rugosa):
Shingleback skinks are also known as the stump-tailed skink, bogeye, pinecone lizard, and sleepy lizard. They feature distinctive armor-like bumpy scales, a dark, nearly-black tongue, and a stumpy tail that resembles its head and may be used to confuse predators. Further unlike other blue tongues, young are raised in family colonies, making the shingleback the only truly social blue tongue skink on this list.
There are 4 known subspecies of Tiliqua rugosa:
- T. r. asper — Eastern Shingleback
- T. r. konowi — Rottnest Island Shingleback
- T. r. palarra — Northern Bobtail or Shark Bay shingleback
- T. r. rugosa — Bobtail or Western Shingleback
This species is widely distributed in arid to semiarid regions of southern and western Australia. It also occurs in the eastern states of Victoria and New South Wales, but is not present in coastal areas. Their preferred habitat includes shrublands, desert grasslands, and sandy dunes. Individuals have an average home range of four hectares, and will travel up to 500 metres per day.
According to Professor Michael Bull’s research, shingleback blue tongue skinks can live up to 50 years in the wild.
Western (Tiliqua occipitalis):
Western blue tongues feature a notably short tail, a bold black band behind each eye, and thicker banding along the body than seen in other species. Westerns grow up to 20″ (50 cm) long.