Saturday, November 22, 2014

It's Nearly Summer

and the bobtail goannas are about. They are actually a type of skink (proper name Tiliqua rugosa) and rejoice under a number of common names - bobtails, blue tongues, stumpy tails, all obviously related to their appearance, and, more obscurely, sleepy lizards, which I assume relates to their winter dormancy.

    Taken by: Grant65 from English Wikipedia (original source)
    License:  cc-by/3.0 (500 x 341 px) (52741 bytes) 

I have the good fortune to have a family of these endearing creatures living in my garden. The adults are reported to grow to around 26-31 cms in length - although the one of our current adults that I saw yesterday is more like 36 cms. They have thick scales and their stumpy tail is believed to be a combination of defence mechanism - unlike other skinks it can't jettison its tail but as it looks something like another head, it could confuse a predator - and as a fat store for the winter. 

Generally they are shy and hide among the plants, although they will sometimes sun themselves particularly in early Spring when they are first coming out of dormancy. When threatened they open their mouths wide, displaying a bright blue tongue in a vivid pink mouth as they rear up. It can be quite a shock if you aren't expecting it. They very rarely bite, however, and it's largely a remarkably effective warning show. I had a reputation in the street for a while for being the person to remove them from inconvenient places like the middle of the road or on driveways because so many people are scared of being bitten. It's not rational but people aren't always rational, are they. I usually wear gloves (not because I'm afraid of them biting but in case they are carrying ticks) and just grasp them firmly behind the neck with one hand and rest them on the other hand and release them in among some plants. 

Unfortunately some folk are afraid of them and kill them (It's illegal but they have to be caught doing the act for any action to be taken) and a number die every year crossing roads, sadly sometimes deliberately run down It's stupid really because one of their favourite foods is the destructive garden snail. 

They are unusual in a number of ways. They pair bond for life, coming back together every breeding season. As well they are live bearers, with the female giving birth to 4-5 babies. The family stays together for a month or so then the young move on. From what we've observed there seems to be a fairly high death rate among the young but once they get past that they can live for twenty or more years. 

You can read more about them here.

No comments: