This unusual lizard is sometimes called a two-headed skink. Its triangular tail resembles its head, often confusing predators who mistake the tail for the head and attack the wrong end, buying the skink a chance to escape. The shingleback skink may put on a defensive display, opening its mouth wide and sticking out its blue tongue. If the threat persists, the skink will hiss and inflate its body to look larger. As a last resort, the lizard can inflict a painful (but non-venomous) bite. Unlike many other lizards, if a shingleback skink loses or damages its tail, it will not grow back. Predators include falcons, kookaburras, monitor lizards, and feral dogs and cats.
Skinks store fat reserves in their tails to use when food is scarce. They draw upon these reserves during the winter when they begin a hibernation-like period called brumation. When conditions improve, shingleback skinks return to their normal routine. They bask in the sun early in the day to raise their body temperature, then move off to forage for food. They retreat to their shelter at the end of the day to sleep among leaf litter or under rocks and logs.
Breeding pair bonds may last a lifetime—the male and female reunite each year during mating season but spend winters apart. After about five months, the female gives birth to two or three live young. They remain with both parents for several months before moving on.
Found in southern and western Australian desert, grasslands, and sandy dunes.
This omnivore consumes insects, spiders, snails, carrion, fruit, flowers, and berries.
Colors range from grayish brown to black, and some have lighter blotches. Its body and tail are thick and grow from 12 to 18 inches long. The shingleback skink can live 20 years or more.