Scaly sun basker

A short-tailed, slow moving lizard warming up on a flat rock in your backyard, cruising around on the search for a tasty snail or eating your strawberries might be a bobtail lizard (Tiliqua rugosa), known as Yoorna or Yoorn in the Noongar language. The word ‘rugosa’ means ‘wrinkled’ or ‘rough’ which most likely refers to the large scales which cover the body of the lizard.1

Bobtails are one of the more abundant reptiles that inhabit Australia. They are a species of blue-tongued skink found across arid and semi-arid southern and eastern Australia.

As well as the distinctive short and rounded tail, which is similar in size and shape to the triangular-shaped head, bobtails have a stout body with relatively short limbs. They are up to 41cm long from head to tail and vary in colour, usually black to brown, with or without yellow flecks. Their blue tongues can be seen when they feel threatened as their response is to open their mouth, extend their tongues and hiss.1


Photo: Houndstooth Studio.

Active during the day, they eat mainly flowers and vegetation (and love strawberries) however are omnivorous, so also eat snails and insects such as beetles. They use their tails to store fat; bobtails can go without food for many months after a good season. A very flat tail usually indicates poor condition.

Bobtails are monogamous (they have one mate for life) and can live for up to 50 years. Interestingly, females give birth to live young, sometimes triplets.2 The young can often weigh up to 40% of the mother’s body weight.

Bobtails have a sensor on top of their head known as the ‘third eye.’ This lets them know the temperature so they know when they need more sun basking.


Distribution map of the Bobtail lizard.
Map: Department of Parks and Wildlife.img_2504
Photo: Houndstooth Studio.


Download the ‘Feeding Bobtails’ and ‘Bobtail Flu: an emerging threat to local lizards’ information sheets.



1Australian Museum

2iNSiGHT Ornithology