Red tegu

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Red tegu
Tupinambis rufescens01.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Family: Teiidae
Genus: Salvator
S. rufescens
Binomial name
Salvator rufescens
(Günther, 1871)
  • Teius rufescens Günther, 1871
  • Tupinambis rufescens Boulenger, 1885

The red tegu (Salvator rufescens) is a lizard native to western Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay. It is sold in the pet trade around the world because of its relatively docile nature and because it is comparatively easy to keep.

Habits and Habitat[edit]

In the wild, red tegus are diurnal and terrestrial. Living in a temperate climate in Argentina, they brumate in the winter, burying themselves and remaining largely dormant during the coldest periods, in some areas for up to seven months, they also burrow as a matter of habit at other times of year.


The red tegu grows rapidly, typically reaching maturity in two to three years, it is not uncommon for well-fed juveniles to experience growth spurts of more than an inch per week.


The red tegu is a very opportunistic feeder. Wild specimens will eat a variety of plant and animal matter: fruits, vegetables, insects, rodents, birds, and fish. Red tegus raised in captivity will often be more picky eaters, especially as juveniles, and may prefer a diet of mostly meat.

Being omnivores, red tegus will eat a diverse range of foods, with a focus on animal protein, including small to medium rodents, birds, many insects, and any dead animal they can scavenge.


Salvator rufescens.jpg

As hatchlings, most red tegus display little, if any, red coloration, they are typically brownish-green with black strips across their width and several broken white stripes down their length. They develop red coloration as they mature; males are usually brighter than females.[2][3] Adult females can reach 91 cm (just under 3 ft) in length. Males are significantly larger, reaching up to 140 cm (4.5 ft) and developing large jowls.


A pre-adult male tegu drinking water from a cat dish inside a house.

These reptiles are common in the pet trade, they can be trained with "clickers", and are known for following their owners around the house "like a dog". MacGyver the Lizard is a famous YouTube channel focused on one such Argentine red tegu.


  1. ^ Salvator rufescens at the Reptile Database. Accessed 2018-10-25.
  2. ^ Bartlett, R., & Bartlett, P. (1996). Monitors, Tegus, and Related Lizards. Barron’s Educational Series.
  3. ^ Pianka, E. R. (2006). Lizards: Windows to the Evolution of Diversity. University of California Press.