If you’re new to blue-tongue skinks, one of the first questions you’re probably curious about is whether they bite or not. This article should get you completely up to speed and your mind at ease!
Blue-tongue skinks are becoming increasingly popular reptile pets not just in the United States, but the United Kingdom and elsewhere around the world.
With more and more people owning these little lizards, the question concerning whether or not they bite is bound to pop up.
Let’s get straight to the point:
Blue-tongue skinks DO bite, however they generally do not bite often, and usually only under certain circumstances. Their bite will hurt a little, but because their teeth are very small and dull, it usually doesn’t draw blood. Their bites are not poisonous, just annoying!
Below is a little bit more information regarding the following 4 questions:
Do Blue Tongue Skinks Bite?
One of the reasons why blue-tongue skinks make such great pets is due to their docile nature.
Compared to a lot of other commonly kept lizard species, blue-tongues are quite tame.
However, at the end of the day, they are still animals, and lizards at that. And animals can and do attack from time to time.
Blueys do bite, but this almost never happens unless they feel cornered or trapped.
In the wild, blue-tongues first method of defense is to turn towards the threat, open their mouth as wide as possible, flick out their bright blue-tongue, and hiss and puff up their body to make themselves look bigger. Out in the natural environment this often is enough to deter predators.
However, this sometimes isn’t enough.
As a last resort, blue-tongues will bite. It’s simply their last recourse, as they lack speed, flight and claws attached to long limbs.
If and when they do bite, they have a tendency to latch onto whatever they bite. As blue-tongues lack sharp teeth, they aren’t able to tear away chunks of flesh. Instead, they bite and keep hold. Although they have dull, small teeth, their bite is rather powerful and is often enough to deter a would-be predator.
As they are not by nature aggressive, they will not give chase to their attacker. Instead, their bite is used as means of last resort.
What does this mean for you?
This means that a blue-tongue lizard will generally only bite when it feels it has no other option but to. The 2 most frequent scenarios in which a bite can occur are:
- Being picked up or handled when they do not want to be
- Mistaking a finger for food when eating
Moreover, some species of blue-tongues are a lot more prone to biting than other species.
- Captive-bred and born Northerns are the least likely to bite and be the most docile
- Indonesian species tend to be more aggressive, especially Tanimbars
- Females tend to be more docile than males
Below is a video I found of the first scenario, in which a young boy finds a wild blue-tongue, which clearly does not want to be touched or handled, in his house.
Do Blue-Tongue Skinks Have Teeth?
They are a bit difficult to see, but blue-tongues do in fact have teeth. The thing is, they are quite small and dull.
Their teeth differ from ours and other mammals in that they attach and are fused solid to the side of the bone, known as pleurodont teeth, instead of attached to the top.
They have upper and lower rows of teeth, like other animals, but as far as how many teeth they have, I haven’t come across an authoritative source on an exact number.
Judging by the skulls of dead blue-tongues as well as x-rays, they appear to have at least 30 teeth. Somewhere between 30 and 40 would be my best guess.
However many teeth they may have, they don’t resemble ours or other animals, such as crocodiles, at all. They aren’t sharp, are very small and dull and look more like raised bumps than individual incisors or molars.
About the only real thing they are good for in the wild is for crunching up snails and hard-covered insects such as roaches.
As they aren’t sharp, blue-tongues don’t tear their food as much as crunch down on it and try to swallow whatever they can. They also do not chew or masticate their food.
Does a Blue Tongue Lizard Bite Hurt?
I’ve got some good news, and some bad news for you.
The bad news is that chances are, if you own a blue-tongue, you will probably get bit at least once. Although, lots of bluey owners are quite lucky and are never bitten.
The good news however is that, although their bites are quite powerful, because they lack sharp teeth and they are small animals, their bites rarely draw blood or are very painful.
The thing is, it’s not actually their bite itself which is all that painful, but their tendency to simply not let go when they do bite you. This makes the bite all the more painful.
If your blue-tongue does bite you, the best course of action is to remain calm, hold the animal and gently pull it away. It will most likely let go after a few seconds. It isn’t going to stay latched onto your finger for minutes as you try to pry it away.
If you are afraid of being bitten by your blue-tongue, the single best piece of advice I can give to you is to get a good pair of leather gloves. They don’t need to be that thick, but if you can get some that have a bit of roughness to them, all the better.
Any type of glove will work better than your bare-hands, but I have found that a decent pair of leather gloves not only lets you handle them securely, but also protects you from feeling any type of pain if you do get bit.
Is a Blue-Tongue Bite Poisonous?
In the wild, bright vivid colors often signify poison. This is a big reason why their bright blue-tongues have worked so well for millions of years for them. Would-be predators often turn tail when they see their bright blue-tongue, which contrasts heavily with their bright, pink mouths, flicking out at them.
That being said, blue-tongue lizards actually aren’t poisonous at all.
This myth probably sprouted up in traditional legend, as there are lizards that are poisonous.
Of the more than 4,600 lizard species in our world, only a handful of them are actually poisonous.
One of the more commonly known poisonous lizards is the Gila Monster, the largest native lizard in the United States. Interestingly enough, like the Blue-tongue skink, it also has a blue-tongue (though not quite as bright).
The Mexican beaded dragon (not to be confused with the bearded dragon), is another lizard which possesses a poisonous bite.
And perhaps the most well-known of poisonous lizards, the Komodo dragon, a humongous lizard native to several Indonesian islands, is also capable of injecting venom into its prey during a bite.
To sum everything up:
- Blue-tongue skinks do bite, but not often and only as a means of last resort
- Their bite, although powerful, isn’t that painful due to their lack of sharp teeth and small size
- Use a good pair of leather-hide gloves if you are afraid of being bitten
- Blue-tongues do have teeth, quite a few of them (more than 30), however they are small and dull
- A blue-tongue lizards bite is not poisonous