New Research Verifies Invasive Tegu Lizards Adaptable to Various Climates

by Heidi Koontz, USGS
March 9, 2022

The Argentine black and white tegu is a large lizard from South America currently inhabiting the Florida counties of Charlotte, Hillsborough, Miami Dade and St. Lucie. Tegus are introduced to the U.S. through the pet trade and then likely released from captivity into the environment. 

“Several lines of evidence from recent USGS research studies published from 2018 to 2021 now provide clear indication for managers that the entire southeast portion of the United States is at risk of tegu establishment if lizard releases continue unabated,” said Amy Yackel Adams, a USGS research ecologist. 

In the first study, published in Ecosphere, USGS researchers investigated how the invasive tegu lizards have adapted to hibernate in south Florida. They found that the lizards were able to keep their body temperatures high throughout hibernation despite the cooler environment. Researchers determined that changes in environmental temperatures and length of daylight generally caused the lizards to enter and exit hibernation, which averaged 138 days. Larger tegu lizards hibernated for longer periods of time while one tegu lizard did not hibernate at all, only the second time this behavior has been documented.  

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