Argentine Black and White Tegu

STATUSLeast Concern


DIETVegetable matter, insects, mollusks, small mammals, birds, and amphibians

RANGESouthern Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, Northern Argentina, and Northern Uruguay

HABITATMeadows and open forests

Argentine Black and White Tegu

Status: Least Concern

Argentine Tegus are large stocky lizards with short necks. These Tegus have beaded. Males are larger than females and can grow to a length of 4-½ feet, while females rarely grow larger than 3 feet. Males are also thicker and more muscular in build. Young tegus are green with black markings, and the green fades to white over the first few months of life. They have a moderate temperament and are very intelligent and inquisitive.

Habitat and Range: Live in a wide range of terrains from meadows to open forests in southern South America.

Diet in the Wild: Omnivores feeding mostly on vegetable matter. Feed on invertebrates such as insects and mollusks as well as vertebrates like small mammals, birds, and amphibians.

Diet in the Zoo: Vegetables and fruit offered each day, with mice offered twice a week

Predators: Predators of immature tegus include birds of prey, pumas, and snakes. Tegus are also hunted for their meat and leather.

Life Cycle and Social Structure: Tegus become sexually mature at 3 years of age. In the wild, they typically hibernate during the colder months from September to March. Their breeding season typically begins a few weeks after awakening from hibernation and lasts about a month. Tegus are oviparous and lay between 12 and 30 eggs.

Tegus can be kept in groups and will hibernate in groups in the wild. However, more than one male in a territory can lead to conflicts.

Life Span: In captivity, black and white tegus can live 15-20 years.

Interesting Facts:

  • Black and white tegus are excellent swimmers that can stay underwater for long periods of time.

Conservation Message: Tegus are becoming more popular in the pet industry and pet trade. Before buying these lizards one should know where they were bred, as catching them from the wild is decreasing their populations, and wild caught tegus can be very aggressive. Potential pet owners should also know the size that these lizards reach and the amount of space required.

What You Can Do: Do you research before buying a pet. Tegus live a long time and can grow to be large. You need to make sure you can provide adequately for an animal for its whole life before you purchase one. Also make sure you are purchasing from a reputable breeder. Taking tegus from the wild not only decreases their native population, but also increases your likelihood of having an aggressive pet.

Tegu Care/Info Sheet. Compiled by: Cat and Exotic Care of the Central Coast. Maxwell Conn, DVM.