Going Wild: Slithery, scaly skinks

By Ashley Moser
Published On: Apr 18 2014 08:06:00 PM HST

What's slithery, scaly and has a forked tongue? Some type of snake? Not quite.

HONOLULU -

What's slithery, scaly and has a forked tongue? Some type of snake? Not quite, but it's a distant relative called the Blue-tongued Skink.

Click here to watch Ashley Moser's report.

Some call it a snake with disproportionate legs, but most know skinks for their big, blue tongue.

This native Australian reptile is now found as a pet all over the world. The key to its survival is sunlight.

"They have to solarize in the sun to get going to go hunting and then after they get their fill, the sun helps them metabolize that food," said Zoo Keeper Linda Meir

They're known for basking in the sun. When they have too much of it, they look for a shady place to rest.

Keepers say they're often confused with snakes and lizards, but one characteristic setting them apart is right on their head.

"The ears; they have ear holes and snakes do not have earholes," said Linda.

Ears to hear and a tongue to taste and keepers say that slimy blue body part does much more than devour breakfast.

"They'll stick out the tongue pick up the air particle on the tongue and take it up. On the roof of their tongue is what they call Jacobson organ and that they stick the tips in them and analyze air particles and figure out what's around them."

Keepers often joke around with children saying the reason why their tongues are blue is because of blue lollipops. Well that's not the case. It's actually a defense mechanism.

They will wave around their blue tongue to scare off predators.

"They will stick out the tongue, drop it down and just wave it. They have a nice bright color on the side – a pinkish color – so all that color is supposed make all the other animals look at it and go, 'Ah,'" said Linda.

Keepers say the technique works most of the time on predators.

But when skinks are the ones on the prowl, what satisfies their hunger? They're omnivores, so they eat fruits, vegetables, meat and occasionally insects.

"Pretty much they eat like we do, except for the candy and all that garbage," said Linda.

The skink's coat looks shiny and slimy, but it's not wet at all.

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