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Not So Cold-Blooded: Argentine Black and White Tegus


The term 'cold-blooded' is often thrown around in tandem with reptiles. Though reptiles are ectothermic, meaning that they warm their bodies with energy from their environment, there is an exception to this rule. Introducing the Argentine black and white tegu. These lizards are the largest of the tegu family and have the unique ability to thermoregulate. This is usually seen during the breeding months between September to December and rarely during other times of the year.


Male tegus develop pronounced jowls, which are actually all jaw muscles used for biting. Mature male tegus will have a greater bite force per square inch than an American alligator. Male tegus will use their jowls to attract females. Simply put, the bigger the cheeks, the more handsome the tegu! Female black and white tegus will care for their young until they are ready to fend for themselves.


Black and white tegus are considered to be one of the most intelligent reptiles, capable of solving food puzzles and navigating mazes. They are commonly kept as pets and can be housetrained like a dog or cat. In the wild, these impressive lizards won't hesitate to use their impressive jaws to defend themselves, but when domesticated, they are known for their gentle dispositions and affinity for their caretakers. Tegus in captivity can live into their 20s, so tegu keepers will have their scaly pals around for a long time.


Tegus have become invasive in areas of the United States, most notably in the state of Florida. These animals originate either from escaping into the wild, being released as captive pets, or are the offspring of such individuals. It is important to never release pets into nature and to make sure that enclosures are safe and secure.

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