Argentine Black and White Tegu Facts - Animals of South America

The black and white tegu is the largest of the tegu lizards.
The black and white tegu is the largest of the tegu lizards.

The Argentine tegu, also known as the black-and-white tegu or the giant tegu is the largest of the tegu lizards. It is an omnivorous reptile that inhabits the savannas, semi-deserts, and tropical rainforest of central and east South America. The Argentine tegu is an intelligent animal that learns to live and co-exist with humans. It goes into brumation like other reptiles during autumn.

Physical Description

Young tegus have an emerald green color from the snout to their back while the rest of the body is black and white. As they grow older, the green color fades, and the entire body becomes black and white. Males are significantly larger and can grow to between 4.0 and 4.5ft in length while the females grow to 3.5 ft. They have strong claws for digging out food and burrowing while the strong jaws and sharp teeth allow them to chew meat with ease. When threatened, the tegu swings its tail aggressively and releases it at the fracture point when grabbed by the predator. They run bipedally and at high speeds for short distances with their mouth, wide-open and front legs spread wide to intimidate the enemy.

Seasonal Endotherm

The Argentine tegu is a partially warm-blooded lizard with an average temperature of about 18 °F. Unlike birds and mammals, the lizard can only control its temperature during the reproductive season between September and December. Biologists believe that this ability was adopted as an adaptive trait to allow the lizard to cope with hormonal changes during the breeding season.


The Argentine tegu inhabits the forests of Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil, and Bolivia. They are adaptive animals that can also be found along the edges of forests and savannas as long as they can access food and water. Some of the tegus that had been kept as pets have been released in the wild where they continue to grow in number.


The Argentine tegu is an omnivorous reptile that feeds on a diverse range of invertebrates including spiders, insects, and snails. It seeks out food with more proteins including seeds, eggs, and fruits as it grows older. Tegus in captivity feed on high protein diet that include dog food, chicken, small rodents, ground turkey, and insects. Some tegus in captivity do not eat fruits while others enjoy mangoes, grapes, bananas, and papaya.

Tegus As Pets

Thousands of tegus are kept as pets across the world because they are docile and relate closely with the owners. They are intelligent reptiles that can learn how to behave and live indoors. They live for about 20 years. Wild tegus are aggressive and respond to threats by delivering a painful bite using their strong jaws and sharp incisor teeth. However, when tamed, they become docile, less fearful, and less aggressive.


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