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5 Interesting Facts About Tegu Lizards

Tegu lizards are curious animals originally from South America which are essentially dog-sized lizards with tongues like those of a snake.

They have been introduced to other parts of the world via the exotic pet trade, because they are somewhat docile in captivity and can even become somewhat affectionate under the right circumstances.

Yet, not many people know much about them. Below, five curious facts you may not know about tegus.

Tegu Lizards
Lizards… tegu lizards everywhere!

1. They are not monitors

Tegus may look like a chonky version of a monitor lizard, but they are actually a separate species. Tegus and monitor lizards share a common ancestor which means they are in fact distant relatives, but they are an example of divergent evolution. Both tegus and monitors are highly intelligent animals, tegus are generally considered easier to tame and somewhat more affectionate. Moreover, all species of monitor lizards have a venomous bite, whereas tegus do not.

2. They can climb

All baby tegus are arboreal and spend most of their life on trees when they are young. As they reach maturity after 2-3 years, they become territorial and prefer to spend time on the ground. They can still climb, however, they just prefer not to. In the Amazon basin, adult female gold tegus will often climb on trees to find a termite nest where they can lay their eggs. Hatchlings who are born on a tree will stay on it and feed on insects until they are old enough to descend on land.

3. They can swim, too

Most tegu species are not particularly fond of water but they can actually swim if needed. This has probably something to do with living in a variety of humid climates which may be prone to flooding. Some rare species such as the Caiman Lizard prefer to live near bodies of water and are strong swimmers, climbers, AND burrowers.

4. Their tails grow back

Like many other lizards, tegus can drop their tail when they feel threatened by a predator or if it gets stuck somewhere it shouldn’t. After losing their tail, a new one starts generating in its place, although it will look totally different! A bizarre case was observed in Argentina where a tegu has been observed growing not one, but five different tails at the same time. This likely happened because its original tail was partially injured but did not successfully detach from its body, which started growing new ones to replace it.

5. You can eat them

Tegus are edible and in some parts of the world their meat is considered a delicacy. Tegus are cooked and eaten by rural and local populations in South America, particularly in Argentina and Brazil where these animals originate from. It is often served with rice or used to make stew.


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