A close relative of the more familiar bluetongue, the shingleback is an extremely distinctive member of the lizard family known as skinks. Its two most striking features are the short rounded tail, which bears a remarkable resemblance to the head end to confuse predators and the huge scales covering the body giving it a rough and bumpy appearance. The general colour varies somewhat from an all over dark brown to patterns of light brown, cream and even yellow. Like its close relative, the tongue is large, fleshy and dark blue in colour and used to warn off any potential threats such as dingoes or foxes. Adult shinglebacks are robust lizards with a broad, triangular head. A large adult will measure over 35cm in length.
Inhabitants of the drier areas of southern Australia, shinglebacks are superbly adapted to survive the harsh arid climate of this region. The thick, tough skin provides great protection against predators and keeps water loss to a minimum. The tail is designed as a fat storage organ and, after a good season, these lizards can go many months without food if necessary.
Most of the diet is made up of vegetable matter including foliage, berries and fruits. They have a particular liking for flowers and will seasonally gorge themselves on blossoms, particularly yellow ones, if given the opportunity. The occasional insect, spider or scorpion are also eaten.
Almost unique in the lizard world, shinglebacks find a compatible mate and then will continue to pair up with the same partner every spring for 20 or more years. Females typically produce two large babies a year.