Red Tegu

The Red Tegu, also called Argentine Red Tegu Lizard, or simply, Argentine Tegu, is a species of large lizards found in parts of South America. It is the largest member of the lizard genus Tupinambis that contains six other tegu species. They are known for their docile temperament, and hence, is easy for humans to tame them.

Scientific Classification

Salvator rufescens

Table Of Content

Scientific Classification

Salvator rufescens

Physical Description

Size: Adult females can reach 91 cm (around 3 ft), while the males can reach up to 140 cm (4.5 ft) in length (head to tail).

Weight: A healthy, adult red tegu can weigh around 50 pounds.

Color: They are brownish-green, having black stripes across the width along with several broken white stripes down their length. They develop their characteristic red coloration (from which they get their name) as they mature.

Body: They are characterized by a muscular body, a wide skull (head), a very short neck and a forked tongue.

Red Tegu

Sexual Dimorphism: They are sexually dimorphic. The males grow larger than the females and develop prominent jowled cheeks, just along the baseline of their lower jaw.


The average longevity of the red tegu is between 15 and 20 years.


The range of the red tegu is western Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay.


These tegus are found in various habitats like savannas, swamps, meadows, rainforests, and open fields.

Classification of Species

Currently, no subspecies of the red tegu has been described by the biologists.

Argentine Red Tegu
Red Tegu Size

Behavioral Characteristics

Red tegus are diurnal reptiles that have the ability to run on their hind legs and love to swim. They are extremely intelligent, and are neither dangerous nor venomous unlike many species, and, in fact, have a docile personality, often seen interacting with humans.

They can even be tamed, learn to recognize their owners in captivity, and can act docile to them as pets. At times, they would even ignore their food for the sake of social interaction.

Unlike the captive specimens, the wild individuals often show aggression towards each other and are seen fighting with any potential predators. When in the water, they often dive at average depths and can spend up to 22 minutes submerged, after which, they need to return to the surface to breathe.

During the winter months, they hibernate between September and March. This is a natural habit in the wild in order to survive the cold period of the year, especially when food is short.

Male Red Tegu
Red Tegu Female


These tegu lizards are omnivorous, often foraging for a wide variety of foods, including fruit, seeds, small vertebrates, carrion, birds, various arthropods, and eggs.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Before going for hibernation, red tegu lizards engage in mating, after which the females start laying eggs. Two weeks after they wake up from hibernation, the process of mating begins again, and this process continues.

The mother red tegu lays between 12 and 30 leathery eggs in its nest. They have also been observed hiding their eggs inside termite mounds. This helps the eggs remain in optimal temperature and get enough humidity for development.

The eggs will hatch after 45 to 60 days, while the baby red tegus remain under the care of the mother until they are matured enough to forage for themselves.

The juvenile red tegu lizards grow rapidly, typically reaching the age of sexual maturity within two to three years. Interestingly, the healthy and well-fed young can grow at a rate of more than one inch per week.

Baby Red Tegu
Picture of a Red Tegu


  1. Their strong claws help them in digging burrows, as also finding food.
  2. The sharp teeth and strong jaws make it easy for the tegus to bite through and chew through the toughest meat.
  3. Red tegus use their powerful tail as a whip to attack, when threatened.


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

Red Tegu Lizard
Image of a Red Tegu

Interesting Facts

  • These tegus are often seen destroying beehives because of its fondness for consuming honey.
  • Red tegus can be trained with the sound of clickers, and are said to be following their around the house “like a dog”.
  • An Argentine red tegu has become famous in a popular YouTube channel called ‘MacGyver the Lizard’.

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