Hemisphaeriodon gerrardii / Pinktonque skink - Care

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Specification Description
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Lacertilia
Infraorder: Scincimorpha
Family: Scincidae
Scientific name: Hemisphaeriodon gerrardii
Dutch name: Slakkenetende skink
English name: Pink tonque skink
Dieet: Snails
Distribution: Australia
Lifestyle: Crepusculair
Reproduction: Viviparous
Status: Non threatened
Cites: non

Hemisphaeriodon (Cyclodomorphus) gerrardii, (Gray, 1845)

Hemisphaeriodon is a monotypic genus. This means that there is only one species placed within this genus and that's the pink tongue or snail eating skink, the Hemisphaeriodon gerrardii. This skink is closely related to the bluetongue skink (Tiliqua sp), also in basic appearance and care. However, in contrast to the bluetongue skink, the snail-eating skink is a reasonably good climber and has a more slender body. They are lizards that quickly get to know their caregivers. It is not uncommon that they will climb investigative on the arm of their caregiver and regularly will come walking to an opening window in the hopes food will be offered.


Physical Characteristics:  Adult snail eating skinks get on average 40-45cm long. Females are slightly smaller than the males. Adult males have an obviously wider head and thicker tail base. More than half of the total length of these skinks consists of their prehensile tail which helps them to hold on while they climb through the branches in low vegetation, bushes and trees. Adult animals are in basic grey coloured with a faint darker pattern. The belly and chin are light to white. Adult animals have a pink tongue that they will show when feeling threatened. This skink has the so-called Jacobs organ in the upper palate. This organ is mostly known by snakes and Varanus species. By 'tasting' the air with their tongues and sliding this tonque against this organ they get important information out of the ‘air’. Their smell is well developed. Young animals have considerably more contrast in the pattern compared to the parents. These can be recognized easily by their strong banded pattern. When new-born snail-eating skinks are born the tongue blue. After each shed the tongue gets slightly lighter until it has the familiar pink colour of the adults.


Origin and habitat:  The Hemisphaeriodon gerrardii is endemic to Australia and only occurs in New South Wales and Queensland. They are mainly found in areas where their favourite prey accumulates. These are mainly moist forests, gardens and parks. This species is mainly active during the twilight period at sun rise and fall and throughout the evening. During the day they hide amongst leaf litter, under logs and under dense vegetation.


Husbandry:  An adult couple of these skinks should be housed in a terrarium of at least 100x50x50. It is possible to house a group of several females with 1 male in a suitable terrarium. Always keep a good observation of the interaction between your animals when housed in a group. Offer a thick layer of substrate, Zoomed forest floor cypress mulch mixed with coco peat earth is a good option. Other good options are reptibark and Zoomed Aspen bed. Decorate the enclosure with hides like Reptile caves, cork stems and offer diagonally placed trunks and branches to climb. Always offer a water dish with clean water. Provide an average humidity of 70%, mist regularly to daily. The snail-eating skink often get active after this misting, just like their natural prey would after rain. Illuminated 12-13 hours a day with a full spectrum daylight lamp with a medium UVB content. Heating can be done with heat spots or infrared heaters. Give a hotspot of 30-32C with an air temperature of 22C on the cool side and 27-30C on the warm side. Always offer several hides in different temperature gradients in the terrarium so the skinks can move between them and keep hidden whilst thermoregulating.


Diet:  The diet for these animals is not hard to guess. This skink feed mainly on snails and they eat a lot of snails. Almost exclusively with snails that have a house, slugs are not accepted by many. Because of their big appetite it is advisable to stock up on as much snails as possible when this is possible as snails will not be active during the winter. Catch the snails in places that do not get sprayed with insecticides and not just along the road, but preferably from a garden or meadow. To reduce the risk of introducing a bacteria into your collection you can also can choose to breed snails yourself. This can be done with Achatina snails, escargot, etc. Fortunately, the animals also learn to eat frozen thawed prey so it is possible to stockpile in the freezer. At various wholesalers you can also get (freeze dried) canned snails. The snail-eating skink has a fast metabolism and can eat lots of snails per meal. Average 4-6 but sometimes 10 depending on the size of the snail. On average you can feed adults three times a week with as much snails as they want. The skinks crack the shell of the snail easily with their strong jaws. If this fails it will use the decoration like logs and rocks as a tool. Pushing the snails shell hard against the object until it cracks. When they have cracked the shell and ate the snail, any leftover pieces of shell will be pushed out of the mouth with the tongue. However, still some of the shell will be indigested during the feeding and this is often enough when it comes to the calcium requirements. Dip the snails in a calcium supplements ones a week and ones a week you can add vitamin supplements with medium D3 content during another feeding. During the mating season, to make sure the females get enough calcium and protein, you can feed frozen thawed pinkie mouse. They often accept these without hesitation but you can always smear a snail along them to scent the pinkie. When there is shortage of snails for the skinks to eat other prey can be offered such as waxworms, mealworms and earthworms.


Reproduction:  The H. gerrardii is a live bearing lizard. The mating season starts after a light hibernation of 2-3 months at 10-15C. After this rest the female sheds and soon the male will become interested. They mate in a typical lizard fashion where the male wraps his lower body next to the female, lifts her tail with his tail to insert one of his hemipenis into the cloaca and holds on by biting and holding the female in the neck region. Females carry their young about 5 months. The litter can consist of 10 till 24 babies that measure about 6-7cm. 

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