Gold Tegu

The gold tegu, also commonly called Columbian tegu, golden tegu, or black tegu, is a species of large lizards found in Central and South America. The word ‘tegu’ is an Amazonian tribal term for ‘lizard’. Although it looks like a monitor lizard, the golden tegu is distantly related to the latter. It is an aggressive reptile species and will pounce on any small animal that it can overpower. Unlike the red tegu or black and white tegu from Argentina, the gold tegu usually does not make a good pet. It can, however, be tamed with frequent careful handling.

Scientific Classification

Tupinambis teguixin

Table Of Content

Scientific Classification

Tupinambis teguixin

Physical Description and Appearance

Size: These are large-bodied lizards, with an average length of 60-100 cm (24-36 in).

Weight: Adult golden tegus may weigh up to 3.5-4.0 kg (7.7-8.8 lb).

Gold Tegu

Color: They have alternating black and golden bands over their body and tail.

Body: They possess a sturdy, glossy body with strong legs, and a thick, long tail.

Sexual dimorphism: Males can be easily differentiated from the females by the small spurs that exist on the sides of their tail.


Its native range includes the tropical regions of South America and Panama. The lizard has also been found in Florida, in the US.

What Kind of Habitats do Gold Tegus live in

This lizard typically inhabits tropical rainforests that are close to water bodies like swamps, lakes, or rivers. It also lives in open areas that encircle forests and places near agricultural lands. It is sometimes found in the mountainous regions along the eastern side of Andes.


While the average life expectancy of these reptiles is 10-15 years in the wild, captive golden tegus can live for 20 years or more.

Gold Tegu Size
Gold Tegu Lizard


It is primarily a carnivore and prefers eating small animals. It preys on insects, birds, fish, reptiles and their eggs, as well as small mammals like mice and rats. It may eat fruits, such as berries, grapes, squash, apples, pear, and pumpkin when available.

Behavioral Characteristics

  • It is a terrestrial animal that enjoys digging deep burrows where it spends much of the time resting.
  • The gold tegu enjoys bathing, and it spends a fair amount of time soaking in water.
  • It is a swift runner that hunts small animals by chasing them down, grabbing them with its teeth.
Gold Tegu Picture
Gold Tegu Image


  • Its strong hind limbs allow it to stand on two legs, while adopting a defensive posture against a possible threat.
  • It has powerful claws, which they use for burrowing and finding food hidden under logs or in rock crevices.
  • Its formidable jaws are equipped with sharp, dagger-like teeth for grabbing and killing prey.
  • The gold tegu uses its thick tail to whip any potential predator that comes in its way.
  • It uses its long tongue to identify chemical signals and cues related to prey or other lizards.

Mating and Reproduction

Its breeding season comes after it emerges from winter brumation, which is a state of lethargy and rest (but not the same as hibernation). The female tegu deposits 12-30 eggs in a nesting burrow, which is bounded with straw and leaves. It enters the nesting site and remains in it, taking care of the eggs and protecting the burrow. Babies hatch from their eggs after an incubation period of 154-170 days.

Baby Gold Tegu
Gold Tegu Full Grown

Conservation Status

The gold tegu has not been listed under the US Federal List, IUCN Red List, or any other programs.

Gold Tegu Adult
Black and Gold Tegu

Interesting Facts

  • Aside from the Argentine black and white tegu, the gold tegu is considered an invasive lizard species in Florida. It poses a threat to the wildlife and ecosystem of southern Florida.
  • Golden tegus are intelligent lizards. Captive specimens can recognize their owners and may form a bond with them.

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