Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Argentine Black and White Tegu (Salvator merianae) can survive the winter under semi-natural conditions well beyond their current invasive range

March 10, 2021

The Argentine Black and White Tegu (Salvator merianae, formerly Tupinambis merianae) is a large lizard from South America. Now established and invasive in southern Florida, and it poses threats to populations of many native species. Models suggest much of the southern United States may contain suitable temperature regimes for this species, yet there is considerable uncertainty regarding either the potential for range expansion northward out of tropical and subtropical zones or the potential for the species establishing elsewhere following additional independent introductions. We evaluated survival, body temperature, duration and timing of winter dormancy, and health of wild-caught tegus from southern Florida held in semi-natural enclosures for over a year in Auburn, Alabama (> 900 km northwest of capture location). Nine of twelve lizards emerged from winter dormancy and seven survived the greater-than-one-year duration of the study. Average length of dormancy (176 d) was greater than that reported in the native range or for invasive populations in southern Florida and females remained dormant longer than males. Tegus grew rapidly throughout the study and the presence of sperm in the testes of males and previtellogenic or early vitellogenic follicles in female ovaries at the end of our study suggest the animals would have been capable of reproduction the following spring. The survival and overall health of the majority of adult tegus in our study suggests weather and climate patterns are unlikely to prevent survival following introduction in many areas of the United States far from their current invasive range.