Photo: P Wanger
In the warmer non-hibernating months, the shingleback lizard is a fairly common site in most arid or semi-arid parts of Australia. It has a number of other names, including boggeye, stumpy-tailed, and two-headed. And as any non-Aussie can tell from the picture, it’s just like all other Australian animals (except the koala), that is, ready to attack and kill you at a moment’s notice. (But even the koala has been known to piddle on people.)
Surprisingly perhaps, the shingleback is not nearly as nasty as the picture suggests. It opens its mouth and sticks out its blue tongue in order to strike fear into possible predators, but it has no venom. A bite can be a bit painful and leave a bruise, but will usually have no long-term ill effects.
The Australian Museum website gives this delightful description: Shinglebacks “live alone for most of the year, but between September and November reunite as monogamous pairs.” They “are often seen crossing roads in pairs, the male following the female.” Isn’t that sweet!
The shingleback is an omnivore, slow moving, and can be up to about 40 cm long. It has thick bony scales which protect it from some predators, but is often attacked by falcons, kookaburras, dingos, and some of the larger snakes.