ISSN 2398-2985  

Argentine black and white tegu


Synonym(s): Salvator merianae, Argentine giant tegu


Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia. 
  • Phylum: Chordata. 
  • ​Class: Reptilia. 
  • Order: Squamata. 
  • Family: Teiidae. 
  • Genus: Salvator
  • Species: merianae

Distribution and habitat

  • Native to South America. 
  • Found in tropical rain forests, savannas and semi-deserts. 
  • They spend most of their time on land and beneath it, making deep burrows that provide humidity and protection from extreme temperatures. 

Species status

  • Of least concern.

Life span

  • 15-20 years in the wild; about the same in captivity, perhaps older. 


  • Omnivorous. 
  • ​Young, wild tegus eat a wide range of invertebrates, including spiders, insects and snails Lizard nutrition
  • As they get older, they become more predatory and the requirement for protein increases. They will seek out eggs from other reptiles and birds’ nests. 
  • In captivity, they are fed high protein diets including raw or cooked meats, appropriately sized insects and boiled eggs can be used for enrichment. Fresh fruits and vegetables can be offered for variety, however keep to a minimum to avoid gastrointestinal problems due to high sugar content.
  • Dusting of a good quality calcium and vitamin powder can be utilized, but always follow the manufacturer's instructions.


As pets

  • This species could be a good choice of pet for an owner that has the knowledge and time for this larger lizard. 
  • As an intelligent species, they need a large environment with stimulation. 
  • They have been known to become attached to their owner and can be docile with the correct handling. 
  • They should be regularly handled in order to try and avoid them showing aggressive behavior. 
  • Thiis species have a very strong and powerful bite!

Predatory behavior

  • Active predators, eating anything they can overpower. 
  • Their prey will remain grasped in their strong jaws until eventually the prey gives up, then the tegu will consume it.

Biological Data

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Further Reading


Refereed papers

Other sources of information

  • Dr Foster & Dr Smith (2018) Argentine Black & White Tegu. Website: Last accessed 11th June 2018.
  • Mede E (2018) Tegu Care. Website: Last accessed 11th June 2018.
  • Reptile Magazine (2018) Tegu Lizard Health. Website: Last accessed 9th February 2018.
  • Reptile Magazine (2018) Tegu Lizard Housing And Care Information. Website: Last accessed 11th June 2018.
  • Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith (2018) Argentine Black and White Tegu. Website: Last accessed 10th June 2018.
  • Peteducation (2017) Argentine Black and White Tegu. Website: Last accessed 9th February 2018.
  • Scott N, Pelegrin N et al (2016) Salvator merianae. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Website: Last accessed 11th June 2018.
  • Bransonswildworld (2015) Argentine Black and Whit Tegu. Website: Last accessed 9th February 2018. 
  • Herpetological Society of Ireland (2014) Tegu Care. Website: Last accessed 11th June 2018.
  • Mader D (2005) Reptile Medicine and Surgery. 2nd edn. Saunders, UK. pp 581.

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