Argentine Black and White Tegu

The Argentine Black and White Tegu is the largest of all tegu species and are widely spread across selected regions of South America. Also known as the ‘huge tegu’, they are known for their immense intelligence, for which, they are even common as pets in its range, as well as other parts of the world.

Argentine Black and White Tegu Scientific Classification

Salvator merianae

Table Of Content

Scientific Classification

Argentine Black and White Tegu

Salvator merianae

Physical Description

Size: The females usually reach around 3 feet, while the males up to 4½ feet in length.

Weight: Healthy and adult individuals can attain a weight of up to 50 pounds.

Body Features: They have scales all over the body, have forked tongues, and fully developed eyes and eyelids, as well as sharp teeth. The body has an emerald green coloration from the tip of the snout to midway, down the neck, along with black markings.

Argentine Black and White Tegu

Tail: The tails are strong and muscular, but have fracture plates that makes them very easy to be broken off.

Sexual Dimorphism: Both the genders look alike; however, the males are quite larger than the females.


Their life expectancy in the wild is around 12 years, but almost 15-20 years in captivity.

Distribution and Habitat

Argentine black and white tegus inhabit the tropical rain forests, savannas, and semi-desert areas of the eastern and the central regions of South America, especially Argentina (as their name suggests).

Classification of Species

No subspecies of the red tegu has been described by the biologists currently.

Behavioral Characteristics

These tegus have an unusually high level of intelligence and can be kept as pets. Like many other reptiles, they go into a form of hibernation, called brumation, in the autumn when the temperature relatively drops. In the wild, the Argentine black and white tegus typically hibernate during the winter months, until early spring, from September to March.

Hibernation usually occurs in larger groups with mostly one male per group since the males often engage in a clash when they come face to face. When threatened, or while fighting, they open their mouth large with the front legs held wide to look more threatening. During their wakeful period of the year, they display a high level of activity and are often seen basking and burrowing in the wild.

Argentine Black and White Tegu Size
Argentine Black and White Tegu Picture


Their diet consists of plants, fruit, turtle eggs, and arthropods along with some vertebrates.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Mating takes place immediately after coming out from hibernation as the males begin to find out for females for mating. During this time, the male marks his brooding grounds and starts its attempts to win over a female of its choice and begin mating.

After copulation, the females begin to build nests within around ten days. As the female is done with building a nest, it lays eggs after about a week.

These Argentine lizards have been seen regurgitating water into their nests when they turn dry. The female lays around 30 or more eggs at a time and is highly protective of them.

Even after the young ones hatch out, the mother would keep an eye to keep the baby tegus protected until they grow up enough to fend themselves. The juveniles grow up very quickly.

Argentine tegus become very aggressive during this period if they feel threatened. Though not poisonous, the female tegus have been even seen to give fatal bites, wounds, or even kill other tegus, if such a situation is created.

Baby Argentine Black and White Tegu
Argentine Black and White Tegu Lizard


  1. If attacked, Argentine black and white tegus can drop a section of their tail as a distraction to escape from enemies.
  2. By evolution, the tail is very strong, rough and muscular, and can be used as a weapon to swipe at an aggressor and even inflict a wound.
  3. As a defense mechanism, they can run at very high speeds, and even bipedally for short distances.


The primary enemies of the tegus are pumas, snakes, and birds of prey.

Conservation Status

Considering their static population growth, the IUCN 3.1 has declared them as ‘LC’ (Least Concern).

Interesting Facts

  • A recent biological study has shown that the Argentine black and white tegu is one of the very few partially warm-blooded lizards, and can have a temperature up to 10 °C (18 °F).

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