top of page
Worlds End South Africa

Argentine Black & White Tegu

Argentine Black and White Giant Tegu, Tu

The black & white Argentine Tegu is a quick and powerful species of lizard from eastern South America. Like many other reptiles, they rely upon the sun's rays to gain energy, fuel their metabolism, and perform other bodily functions. These reptiles are apex predators in their own right. In the world of reptiles, they possess great storage of abilities that help them survive.

Physical strengths

The black & white tegu has a powerful and muscular torso. They can use their torso muscles to thrash their entire body back and forth to tear meat from a dead animal, to defend themselves, or to dismember a struggling animal in the grip of its jaws. Their body is one big muscle. Besides hunting, a tegu's muscular frame can be used in a number of different ways.

These lizards have thick muscles on their forearms and hind legs. They use their forearms and sharp claws designed like hooks to dig burrows and find food in the dirt. Their claws can also serve as formidable weapons. If grabbed, they can use their claws to rake across an enemy's sensitive areas to inflict incredible damage. Tegus are predators, but they are also prey. Enemies of tegus include birds of prey, large snakes, jaguars, pumas, and domestic dogs. Domestic dogs are their newest threat among these enemies since dogs were brought to South America by early settlers. Humans are also a threat to tegus. They are harvested for their meat and skin to make boots and belts. 

With predators around, tegus make use of their entire bodies for weaponry. Razor-sharp teeth are one of their most lethal weapons for defense. When left with no choice, the tegu can deliver a powerful bite with a force of over 200 pounds. This bite force is possible because of their strong and pronounced jaw muscles that allow them to lock their jaws shut with a vice-like grip. Their bite can lacerate human and animal flesh alike. A victim of a tegu's bite will most likely have to go to the hospital. Still, a tegu has one more weapon that is used in battle.

A long and powerful tail can be used as a whip. When threatened, the tegu will thrash its thick tail at an enemy and deliver a heavy blow wherever it lands. They can perform this defense with great speed. This technique is possible because of the strong muscles in their tails.

The tegu's powerful front and hind legs give them the ability to run with incredible speed to evade threats. However, running away is their most utilized defense since they can tire out very quickly by using their energy to fight.

Brazil, Mato Grosso, The Pantanal, black

Sense of Smell

A tegu has a unique sense of smell. First, they flick their long forked tongue in and out to gather scent particles in the air and on the ground when searching for food. Then they retract their tongue and touch it against an organ on the roof of their mouth called the Jacobson's organ. This organ gives them complex details of what they are smelling and lets them know if something is edible or not. It also gives them information about potential predators nearby. This acute sense of smell helps them pick up the scent of food underneath the dirt, like the smell of eggs of other reptiles such as caimans, turtles, and snakes. 


Wild tegu lizard (Tupinambis) eating a b

For tegus, there are many options to choose from when it comes to eating. As babies, tegus will catch and eat small insects. As they become juveniles and sub-adults, they eat carrion, small animals, and bird eggs. Throughout the day, they will search for food using their forked tongue. As adults, they can eat small birds, rodents, insects, and even fallen fruit. This varied diet makes them omnivores. In addition, their curved, sharp teeth make gripping prey easy. With all these attributes, tegus are built for survival in the wild of South America.  

bottom of page