Argentine Black and White Tegu

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Argentine Black and White Tegu
Specimen in Buenos Aires Zoo
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Lacertilia
Family: Teiidae
Genus: Tupinambis
Species: T. merianae
Binomial name
Tupinambis merianae
(Duméril & Bibron, 1839)

The Argentine black and white tegu, Tupinambis merianae, is the largest species of tegu. It is also known as the Argentine giant tegu.[1] It belongs to the teiid family. Tegus fill ecological niches similar to those of monitor lizards, and are an example of convergent evolution.

They are an omnivorous terrestrial species that inhabit the tropical rain forests, savannas and semideserts of east and central South America. Just as many other reptiles, Argentine Tegus will go into brumation (a form of hibernation) in autumn when the temperature drops. A level of intelligence unusually high for reptiles has been observed, along with a high level of physical activity during the wakeful period of the year. It is believed that individuals of this species sometimes actively seek human attention, as would for example a cat or dog.


As hatchlings they have an emerald green complexion from tip of their snout to midway down their neck with black markings; the emerald green eventually fades to black within a couple of months after shedding. Adult males are much larger than the females and can reach 3 feet (92 cm) in length at maturity and continue to grow to lengths of 4-4.5 feet (120 to 140 cm). The females are much smaller reaching up to 3 feet in total length, from nose to tail. They have beaded skin and linear stripes running down their bodies. Adults can reach a weight from 2.5 to 7 kg.[2]

Some black and white tegus can be bred with the red tegu and blue tegu.


Tegus are omnivorous lizards. In the wild, juvenile Argentine tegus have been observed eating a diet consisting primarily of insects, spiders, and wild fruits and seeds. As tegus outgrow their juvenile state they begin to move towards a higher protein diet frequently scavenging eggs from other reptiles, and even eating small birds. However, even adult Argentine tegus continue eating insects and wild fruits as they grow older as these foods hold essential nutrients to the tegu.

In captivity tegus are generally fed eggs, insects, small rodents, and fruits. It is notable that many captive tegu owners have observed an unwillingness to eat fruit. However, there is also some discrepancy as to whether or not the ingestion of unfertilized bird eggs can have an adverse effect on a Tegu’s ability to produce biotin.[3]

In captivity[edit]

Argentine tegus make good pets, as they have a tendency to become attached to their owners and are generally quite docile as adults. A well cared for animal will live for 15 to 20 years in the wild, and possibly even longer in captivity. However, as with most reptiles, if not handled regularly they will show more aggressive signs since they are less comfortable with the handler.

Adult female black and white tegu


  1. ^
  2. ^ pp2
  3. ^ Kiefer, Mara C., and Ivan Sazima. "Diet of Juvenile Tegu Lizard Tupinambis Meriamae (Teiidae) in Southeastern Brazil." Amphibia-Reptilia 23 (2002): 105-08. Eco Evo. Koninklijke Brill NV. Web. 9 Dec. 2013.

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