The Shingleback lizard is a short-tailed, slow-moving species of blue-tongued skink native to Australia. These lizards have a heavily armored body and can be found in various colors, ranging from dark brown to cream. They have a triangular head and a bright blue tongue. Their short, wide, stumpy tail resembles the head of these lizards and may confuse predators. This has led to the common name of "two-headed skink". The tail also contains fat reserves, which are drawn upon during brumation in winter.
Shingleback lizards are widely distributed in arid to semiarid regions of southern and western Australia. The range extends from Shark Bay, Western Australia, across the southern-most regions of the country to the coast, then north into Queensland. Four subspecies are found in Western Australia, including one at Rottnest Island. Shingleback lizards also occur in the eastern states of Victoria and New South Wales but do not reach coastal areas. The habitat of the species includes forests, shrublands and desert grasslands to sandy dunes.
Shingleback lizards are diurnal and social creatures. These skinks are well known, due to a preference for sun basking, and are often seen along roadsides or other cleared areas in their range. Shinglebacks do not produce their own body heat and rely on the warmth of their surroundings to raise their body temperature. During cold months they brumate (stay inactive), buried deep in their shelter sites, however, on sunny days they may emerge to bask. On average, individuals have a home range of four hectares and can move up to 500 meters per day. At night they sleep among leaf litter or under large rocks and logs. Shinglebacks communicate with visually and vocally. When threatened, they will open their mouth wide and protrude their large blue tongue and will hiss violently at the same time. They may also flatten out their body, which will make them look bigger. If to try to pick up a frightened Shingleback lizard it may bite.
Unlike most lizards, Shinglebacks are monogamous and pairs have been known to return to each other every year for up to 20 years. They breed from September through November. These lizards are viviparous, giving birth to broods of 1 to 4 relatively large offspring. The gestation period usually lasts around 5 months. The young are born well-developed and weigh about 60-140 grams. Soon after birth, they immediately consume their afterbirth. The young lizards stay with their parents for several months before moving on, but they remain in close proximity, forming a colony of closely related skinks. Males usually eat less while parenting, remaining alert and ready to give an alarm.
There are no major threats to Shingleback lizards at present.
According to IUCN, the Shingleback lizard is locally common and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.