Show us your tongue, Slinky!

Last week I got recertified to demo blue-tongued skinks at the zoo, since it’s been awhile since I’ve handled this Australian lizard. Of the two skinks we demo, “Slinky” is the one who reliably shows her tongue, which truly is a shade of cobalt blue somewhat darker and duller than my shirt in this picture. If I just had a faster camera, fellow volunteer Henry would have caught the tongue-flick for posterity. Why the blue tongue, you might ask? Apparently the freak-out factor gives predators pause (evolutionary advantage!). People who spot these skinks in Australian gardens sometimes freak out as well: With its triangular head and stubby little legs (easily hidden by grass), a blue-tongued skink looks a lot like a death adder, which must be about as poisonous as it sounds. At the zoo, though, passersby seem more willing to touch a harmless skink than an equally harmless species of snake. This boy enjoyed Slinky quite a bit.