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.
Size: The females usually reach around 3 feet, while the males up to 4½ feet in length.
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.
Tail: The tails are
strong and muscular, but have fracture plates that makes them very easy to be
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
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.
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
If attacked, Argentine
black and white tegus can drop a section of their tail as a distraction to
escape from enemies.
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.
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.
Considering their static population growth, the IUCN 3.1 has
declared them as ‘LC’ (Least Concern).
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