Uromastyx (Spiny-tailed lizard)
Uromastyx (Spiny-tailed lizard)
In the past the species found further east were classified in the Uromastyx genus but are nowadays placed in the genus Saara.
Spiny-tailed lizards are well adapted to inhabit arid regions and hot desert conditions, and capable of living without free runing water, for instance in Sinai Peninsula it rains less than 2 inches per year.
They usually occupy hilly, rocky areas close to vegetation and good shelter, from sea-level up to to 3000 feet (1000m) high.
Like most reptiles they spend the day basking in the sun, with temperatures up to 120 °F (49 ºC), finding shelter in burrows if in danger. During the night they usually sleep in their burrows with their tails closest to the entrance, so that it may be used to ward off predators or intruders.
The spiny-tailed lizard has a flattened, very wide and muscular body, with the characteristic heavy spiked tail, used for defense against predators. They will at the same time hiss not to mention showing of their tiny teeth, but for the most part they have a pretty gentle disposition.
The coloration is variable among the several species but also within the same species the color of individual specimens will vary. Their color also changes according to the surrounding temperature, at times they are more vibrantly colored but sometimes will look quite pale and dull. Usually in the wild males are larger and more colorful than females.
For the most part Uromastyx species tend to be under 14 inches (36 cm) in total length, with Macfadyen's spiny-tail lizard (U. macfadyeni) reaching about 10 in (25 cm) in length. The Egyptian spiny-tailed lizard (Uromastyx aegypticus) is the biggest, with specimens attaining 36 in (91 cm) if not more in total length and weight a few pounds.
Recently these lizards have become more popular as exotic pets, with 6 species (U. ornatus, U. aegypticus, U. acanthinurus, U. ocellatus, U. hardwicki, U. benti) occasionally available in the US.
Uromastyx Species / Taxonomy
Their generic name Uromastyx originates from the Ancient Greek words "ourá" which is the word for "tail" and "mastix" which means "whip" or "scourge", referencing the unique thick and spiked tail found in all Uromastyx lizards.
Today there are approximately 13 species recognized in the genus Uromastyx, in the past 3 other species were placed in this genus, but since have been moved to their own genus, Saara.
Bell's dabb lizard (Uromastyx acanthinura - Bell, 1825) - Found in the Saharan desert in Morocco and Tunisia to Sudan and from Mauritania to Egypt and Algeria.
Egyptian spiny-tailed lizard (Uromastyx aegyptia - Forskål, 1775) - Found in Egypt east of the Nile river, east into the southern half of Israel, southern Syria, Iran, Iraq and south and northeastern Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia
Schmidt's spiny-tailed lizard (Uromastyx alfredschmidti Wilms & Böhme, 2001) - This species range is restricted to western Libya and southern Algeria.
Bent's spiny-tailed lizard (Uromastyx benti - Anderson, 1894) - Found in the southern Arabian Peninsula, in the southern regions of Yemen and Oman.
Sudan spiny-tailed lizard (Uromastyx dispar - Heyden, 1827)
Saharan spiny-tailed lizard (Uromastyx geyri - L. Müller, 1922)
Macfadyen's spiny-tailed lizard (Uromastyx macfadyeni - Parker, 1932)
Giant spiny-tailed lizard (Uromastyx occidentalis - Mateo, Geniez, Lopez-Jurado & Bons, 1999)
Eyed dabb lizard (Uromastyx ocellata - Lichtenstein, 1823) - Found from northern Sudan and southeastern Egypt into Djibouti,Eritrea and northwestern Somalia.
Ornate spiny-tailed lizard (Uromastyx ornata - Heyden, 1827) - Found in southern Sinai Peninsula and southern Israel, southward west of the mountains of Saudi Arabia into northwestern Yemen.
Princely spiny-tailed lizard (Uromastyx princeps - O’Shaughnessy, 1880) - Found in Somalia
Oman spiny-tailed lizard (Uromastyx thomasi - Parker, 1930) - Endemic to the central regions of Oman around Jaaluni south to the Dhofar Mountains and also found on Masirah Island.
Yemen spiny-tailed lizard (Uromastyx yemenensis - Wilms & Schmitz, 2007) - Found in southwestern Yemen.
Uromastyx lizards are omnivorous, whereas adult specimens include a substantial amount of plants into their daily diet, the young feed largely on invertebrates.
These particular lizards obtain the majority of the water they require to survive from the vegetation they feed on.
The Uromastyx lizards may reach sexual maturity at 3 or 4 years of age. Depending on species but also their age, females lay anywhere from 5 to 40 eggs, roughly one month after copulation, that incubate for about 70 to 80 days.
Just after birth the hatchlings are 2 in (5 cm) in length weighing 0.14 to 0.21 oz (4–6 g), but promptly put on weight within the initial weeks of life.
Although little known about these interesting lizards, reproduction habits in the wild included, Uromastyx lizards have been successfully bred by several zoos and also private breeders. The Uromastyx lizards may reach sexual maturity at 3 or 4 years of age.
Uromastyx Conservation status and main threats
From the several Uromastyx species not all have been evaluated by the IUCN like the Bell's dabb lizard (Uromastyx acanthinura). Those that are listed have different evaluations by the IUCN. All Uromastyx species are listed on Appendix II of CITES.
Some species are classified as "Least Concern" and appear not to be subject to major threats, while others aren't doing so well.
Both Yemen spiny-tailed lizard (Uromastyx yemenensis) and Schmidt’s spiny-tailed lizard (Uromastyx alfredschmidti) are listed as "Near Threatened" due to overharvesting for the international pet trade.
While the Egyptian spiny-tailed lizard and Oman Spiny-tailed Lizard are classified as "Vulnerable" on the IUCN Red List, and their population is decreasing.