All blue tongue skinks belong to the genus Tiliqua, which can be found throughout Indonesia and Australia. This is a brief overview of all currently recognized blue tongue skink subspecies, with a brief notes on each. It should be noted that Australian species are much more difficult to acquire (in the US) due to strict exportation laws.
Reptiles & Amphibians of Australia, Seventh Edition by Harold G. Cogger was used among the sources for this page.
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 sp):
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 the southeastern tip of Australia, including Tasmania. They prefer 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. The lips are pale gray, sometimes with black spots, and the limbs are speckled. The throat and underside are pale and mostly patternless.
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″ long, with a short tail, stout body, and particularly large head. They are typically gray to light brown in color, with a series of yellow, orange, red, or brown bands crossing the length of the body. They also possess very distinct black bands behind each eye.
Centralian blue tongue skinks are native to the northern half of Western Australia, through northern South Australia, on to Northern Territory and western Queensland. They are typically found in arid and semi-arid habitats including stony hills and sandy deserts.
Eastern (Tiliqua scincoides scincoides):
Eastern skinks grow about 18-24″ long and are the most common blue tongue skink in Australia. They have a relatively streamlined but still robust body, with a triangular head and thick, moderate-length tail. Their pattern features dark bands behind each eye, a gray or brown base, dark cross-bands, light-colored patternless limbs, and a pale, patternless belly. The bands along the body may feature a lighter color in the middle.
Eastern blue tongue skinks are native to southern and eastern Australia. In the wild, they can be found in a wide variety of habitats, including coastal heaths, forests, woodlands, grasslands, and suburban areas.
Northern (Tiliqua scincoides intermedia):
Northerns are the most popular blue tongue skink species, having become very tame through generations of captive breeding. Their appearance is overall similar to Easterns, but with some essential differences. They have a relatively streamlined but still robust body, with a triangular head and thick, moderate-length tail. Unlike Easterns, however, they lack distinct banding behind the eyes and display yellow or orange oval splotches along the sides. They grow up to 24″ (60 cm) long and tend to be the largest and heaviest of all blue tongue skinks.
Northern blue tongue skinks are native to northern parts of Australia. In the wild, they can be found in a wide variety of habitats, including coastal heaths, forests, woodlands, grasslands, and suburban areas.
Northerns are the easiest Australian species to find in the United States.
Pygmy (Tiliqua adelaidensis):
True to their common name, pygmy blue tongue skinks are much smaller than other blue tongue skinks, coming in at just 5-6″ (13.5-16 cm) long. They have a large, triangular head like other Tiliqua, but they have a much more slender body and a short, slender tail. The pattern is typically gray to light brown with dark spots/blotches, and a pale belly.
Pygmy blue tongue skinks are confined to a very restricted area around Mt. Lofty Range and its adjacent lowlands. Its habitat is typically grasslands with variable shrub and tree cover, and is often found occupying abandoned spider burrows.
The pygmy blue tongue skink is the one Tiliqua species that is not available in the pet trade at all. This is because the species is considered seriously endangered and is heavily protected by the Australian government. This guide does not cover captive T. adelaidensis care recommendations for these reasons.
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 southeastern, southern, and western Australia. Their preferred habitat includes coastal heaths, dry sclerophyll forest, woodlands, mallee, shrublands, gibber plains, and sandy deserts. Individuals have an average home range of four hectares, and will travel up to 500 meters 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 grow up to 20″ (50 cm) long and feature a notably short tail, particularly thick body, and a typical triangular head. Their pattern includes a light yellow-brown base, a bold black band behind each eye, and thick dark brown bands along the body — thicker than seen in other species.
They can be found along the drier parts of southern Australia, from the coast of Western Australia all the way to South Australia. They prefer xeric habitats, including stony hills and sandy deserts.