Tegu is a large reptile that is commonly kept as pets. There are several different species and groups of reptiles called “Tegu”. General view of domestic Tegu — Argentine Black and White Tegu, also called Giant Tegu, is native to South America. These lizards are popular pets because they are smart and charismatic.
Origin of the Species
There have been many interesting changes to the Tegu, so it’s worth looking at the different types of these reptiles:
- Argentine Black and White Tegu (Salvator merianae). This Tegu was first introduced to the United States in 1989 when the late great Bert Langerwerf brought back several species from Argentina, which he successfully raised in captivity. Originally found in Central and South America, specimens have beady skin and black and white patterns all over their bodies. Their lifespan in captivity ranges from 15 to 20 years. They grow to about 1.5 m in total length and can weigh up to 16 kg.
- Argentine Red Tegu (Salvator rufescens) has very little red coloration, but increases as the lizard mature. Males are solid dark red, while females are more patterned, grayish red. This Tegu also reaches lengths of up to 1.5 m. They come from the western part of Argentina and also from Paraguay. Paraguayan Red Tegu displays some white patterns mixed with reds. Males also tend to be squatter than other tegu species, as well as their female counterparts. Argentine Red Tegu has also gained popularity for its beautiful coloration, and some are even referred to as “reds” because the red they display is very intense;
- Yellow Tegu (Salvator duseni) is native to Brazil and has never been imported into the United States. It is a beautiful species with a strong yellow-gold coloration and black on the muzzle and head;
- Colombian Black and White Tegu (Tupinambis teguixin). This Tegu comes from a much warmer climate than the Argentine Black and White. Although it has a very similar black and white coloration, it is smaller, growing to 1.2m in length, and its skin has a smoother texture than the Argentine species. Many Colombian Tegus will not become as tame as Argentineans, but this may depend on the owner.
Fun Fact: Recent biological research has shown that Argentine Black and White Tegu is one of the very few partially warm-blooded lizards and can have temperatures up to 10 ° C.
Appearance and Features
Tegus are large, strong, intelligent lizards that can grow up to 1.5 m in length and weigh over 9 kg. The average female is approximately 1 m long and 2 to 4 kg. The average male is about 1.3 m long and 3 to 6 kg. However, there are always exceptions to this rule, including Tegus that are smaller and larger than average. Tegu has large, thick heads and “plump” necks with fat deposits. Although they usually walk on four legs when threatened, they can also run on their two hind legs to appear more intimidating.
Tegus are the only living things with full caudal rings alternating with dorsally separated rings and a slit of granular scales separating the femoral pores from the abdominal pores. They lack near-orbital scales. The Tegu has five eyebrows, the first is usually the longest, and the second is the largest in the area (in some individuals, the first and second eyebrows are almost equal in length). The last supraocular is usually in contact with two cilia. The ventral side of the male’s head is often evenly black during breeding. Fuzzy transverse stripes may be mostly black in adult males or with traces of transverse stripes in females.
In the wild, Tegu lives in a variety of habitats, including rainforest, savannah, and semi-desert habitats. Unlike some other species of lizards, they are not arboreal like adults but prefer to live on the ground. Like most arboreal reptiles, younger, lighter individuals spend more time in trees, where they feel safe from predators.
In the wild, Argentine Black and White Tegus are found in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil, and now the Miami area of Florida, possibly due in part to people releasing pets into the wild. Wild Argentine Tegu lives in pampas grass meadows. Their day consists of waking up, walking to a warm-up spot, and then hunting for food. They return to warm up a little more and help digest their food better, and then they retreat to their burrow, burrow in the ground to cool off, and sleep at night.
Tegu has recently moved into Florida ecosystems, becoming one of the state’s most aggressive invasive species. But they may not just be a long-term problem in Florida. A recent study, published in Nature, modeled the species’ potential distribution and found that these dinosaurs could expand their range far beyond the borders of the state. Like many other invasive species, the Tegu came to the United States as pets. Between 2000 and 2015, up to 79,000 live Tegus could be imported into the United States – with an unidentified number of breeds in captivity.
Wild Tegus are omnivorous and will eat whatever they come across: birds nesting on the ground and their eggs, nests of little mice, small snakes and lizards, frogs, toads, fruits, and vegetables. For Tegus to eat properly at home, they should be offered a varied diet. For the young, the protein to fruit/vegetable ratio should be 4: 1. For yearlings, this can be 3: 1, while the adult Tegu ratio can be around 2: 1.
Protein sources can include ground turkey, chicken, fresh fish, beef liver, chicken offal, frozen-thawed mice (once a week, depending on size), crickets, mealworms, oil worms, silkworms, tomato worms (dusty) with calcium and eggs (boiled or omelet). Fruits can include grapes, strawberries, blueberries, melons, blackberries, peaches, nectarines, mangoes, and bananas (sparingly). Vegetables that are good choices include cauliflower, tomatoes, green beans, and peas.
Don’t feed the Tegu with onions (or dishes made with onions), mushrooms, or avocados. This can pose serious health risks, so care should be taken. Considering that Tegu will eat all types of food, obesity can occur. Don’t overfeed! Tegu’s diet ratios change slightly with age, but the basics remain the same.
The amount of feed should start in small bite-sized portions and increase as needed. Your Tegu will tell you when it’s full. If he eats all of his food, offer more, and remember to increase the amount you regularly feed your pet. Likewise, if he regularly leaves food, reduce the amount suggested.
Features of Character and Lifestyle
Tegus are solitary creatures that are most active during the day. They spend their time taking turns basking in the sun to regulate their body temperature and looking for food. During the winter months, they enter a state similar to hibernation. Destruction occurs when the temperature drops below a certain point. During the rest of the year, they are quite active creatures. Tegu spends most of their time on the ground and is often found on roadsides or in other disturbed areas. They can swim and can immerse themselves for long periods of time.
Argentine Black and White Tegus often become very docile when in a stable environment and require the necessary attention. These large lizards do seem to seek human attention and thrive more when kept in a nurturing environment. Once they learn to trust you, you will have a close friend for years to come. Although native to South American rainforests and savannahs, the Tegu’s charismatic nature – and the fact that it can even achieve some level of home fitness – make it an extremely adorable pet that reptile aficionados love.
These reptiles can indeed be incredibly docile when treated frequently. In fact, they can become very attached to their owners. However, unsocialized animals can become aggressive. Like most animals, the Tegu will let you know when it is uncomfortable or worried. Warnings, called aggression precursors, usually foreshadow a bite or other aggressive action. In some cases, the Tegu warns that it can bite by stomping its paws, banging its tail, or puffing loudly.
Social Structure and Reproduction
Tegu’s reproductive season begins immediately after a dormant period. The post-reproductive season is the humid, warm summer months. Reproduction occurs when the animals emerge from their hibernation period in the spring. Three weeks after, males begin to chase females in the hope of finding a mate, and only after about ten days after that, females begin to build nests. The male marks his reproductive base and begins trying to conquer the female so he can mate. Mating takes place over several weeks and the female begins to build her nest about a week after mating. Nests are quite large, can be 1 m wide and 0.6-1 m high.
The female is very protective of her nest and will attack anything she considers a threat. They are known to spew water on the nest when it gets dry. The female lays 10 to 70 eggs in a clutch, but an average of 30 eggs. The incubation time depends on the temperature and can last from 40 to 60 days.
The Argentine Black and White Tegu is a partially warm-blooded lizard. Unlike birds and mammals, the lizard can only control its temperature during the breeding season from September to December. Biologists believe this ability was adopted as an adaptive trait that allows the lizard to cope with hormonal changes during the breeding season.
Tegu is an interesting and beautiful lizard. Representatives of the Teiida family have large sizes and unusual lumpy scales that resemble a monster. When planning to keep an exotic lizard in the house, it is important to understand that no method gives a guarantee of the successful taming of a reptile. Sometimes lizards never get used to the owner. Therefore, beginners who have no experience with these animals are not advised to start a Tegu.