The Egyptian spiny-tailed lizard
Egyptian mastigure, Leptien's mastigure, Egyptian Uromastyx, Egyptian dabb lizard.
Ägyptischer Dornschwanz (German)
Species: Uromastyx aegyptia.
There are two subspecies: U. a. aegyptia – the nominative subspecies; U. a. microlepis.
The Egyptian spiny-tailed lizard is native to the Libyan desert in the north-east of Africa and in the Middle East from Sinai to Syria and Iraq and to the east up to Iran.
The subspecies U. a. aegyptia is endemic to Libya, Egypt, Israel and Jordan.
The subspecies U. a. microlepis is native to Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE, Oman, Yemen.
This lizard can be found in dry rocky deserts and semi deserts as well as in scrubs and canyons. It is a terrestrial and diurnal species which is active at daytime even when it is very hot. In the wild they dig holes to hide in that can be up to 2 m deep and 10 m long. Also they can use other animals’ holes. In these holes the Egyptian spiny-tailed lizard brumates.
Adult Egyptian spiny-tailed lizards reach 75 cm (tail included). Adult males weigh up to 2 kh. Females are the same size as males. You can tell them apart by thickened tail at the base and bigger femoral pores with males.
This species has protective coloring – from gray-brown to red-brown, it makes a good disguise against the substrate. Young lizards are lighter and have yellow stripes and spots on the back. Males and females have similar coloring.
This lizard can change color depending on the environment. At night they get darker because the sun warms up dark objects quicker in the mornings. And at daytime they become lighter in order to reflect the sun and not to get overheated.
It is a large lizard that is fun to watch. It gets used to people and can be handled. They bite only when they are very scared or cornered. The Egyptian spiny-tail lizard is very popular among the Arabs who believe that this reptile brings good luck. Nevertheless some nomad tribes eat them.
The spiny-tail lizard can change color from black to white or yellow as the temperature rises. They are mainly found in dry areas, and in order to keep water they have a special organ near the nostrils that removes mineral salts. Therefore the lizard can have a white spot near its nose.
They can act aggressively towards their specimens because they are very territorial. Two males cannot be kept together. During mating males can also bite females.
The Egyptian spiny-tail lizard needs a horizontal tank since it is a terrestrial species. The minimal tank size for one lizard is 100х50х40 cm. Two lizards will need a bigger enclosure. You can keep the lizards in harems: one male and several females, but in this case the tank has to be very large.
For substrate you can use a thick layer of gravel or sand (10 – 15 cm at least), because these lizards like digging holes. For decorations and hiding places you can use big stones or logs. It is best to have a heat mat or a heat cord for maintaining the suitable temperature. You can also make a basking spot by directing a heating lamp or a reflector at a big stone. A water bowl is desirable though adult spiny-tail lizards don’t drink much (they live in deserts where there is very little water). Young and weak lizards as well as pregnant females must have a water bowl.
The ambient temperature should be within the range between 15 and 25*C at night and 28-34*C at daytime. It can reach 38-40*С at the basking spot.
The air humidity should be about 50-60%.
These lizards need bright light. A UV lamp is a must.
The Egyptian spiny-tail lizard is a herbivorous species.
In the wild adult lizards eat leaves, fruit, juicy flowers although young lizards can eat insects.
In captivity the lizards must have varied diet. You should feed them with finely cut food from a shallow bowl. After feeding you should take the bowl away so that the food doesn’t rot. You can give them lettuce, dandelions, squash, pumpkin, carrots, apples, pears. You can feed adult lizards every day or every second day. Once a week you can add animal feed – cockroaches, crickets, pink mice. You have to add to the food mineral supplements and once a month lizards will need vitamins.
Young lizards prefer insects so you should give the, crickets and cockroach added with plant feed and mineral supplements.
It is a large lizard that is fun to watch.
The Egyptian spiny-tail lizard is easy to keep and to feed.
It gets tame easily can be handled and hand-fed.
This lizard requires a large tank.
It needs live feed in the menu.
Brumation is necessary for breeding.
These lizards rarely get ill. They can develop rachitis due to the lack of calcium and UV light. Then their limbs get distorted. The best prevention for rachitis is proper husbandry. It can be treated with calcium injections which should be made by a vet.
It is an egg-laying species. Breeding in captivity is complicated. The Egyptian spiny-tail lizard is sexually mature at the age of 4-6 years, males develop faster than females.
In winter you will have to organize brumation for the lizards. During the period of 2 weeks you should gradually decrease the temperature in the tank and the amount of hours of daylight. When it reaches 6 hours a day, you should stop feeding the lizards. After one week they should be placed in light-proof ventilated box filled with wood cuttings or sphagnum. The temperature during brumation period should be about 10-12 degrees. You will have to mist once a week to maintain humidity. The brumation period lasts for about 2 months. The lizards get out of it according to the same scheme: you should gradually increase temperature and the amount of hours of daylight. When you get to 6 hours of light a day, you can start feeding the lizards. They will need good and varied menu, mineral supplements and vitamins. 50-60 days after mating the female lays eggs in the soil. The hole should be at least 30 cm deep, and it is very difficult in captivity. Then you will have to take away the eggs and place them in the incubator. The incubation period lasts for 75-90 days under the temperature of 28-30 degrees. After that about 20-30 hatchlings come out. Once their yolk sac is dissolved, you can start feeding them with small insects (crickets, cockroaches, mealworm, superworm).
It is difficult to say what the average life span of a spiny-tail lizard is since they are usually wild-caught. But it is not less than 25-30 years.