Known also as Dabb Lizards or Mastigures, Spiny-Tailed Agamids are among the most sought after of all lizard species being kept today. There is certainly much to recommend them, but their care does present some challenges. Today I’d like to introduce the group; in Part II of this article I’ll mention a few points should be considered before adding these unique creatures to your collection.
Diversity and Range
It wasn’t so long ago North African (U. acanthinura) and Egyptian (U. aegyptia) Dabb Lizards were the only species available to hobbyists, and then only rarely. Today several of the 18 species within this genus appear in the pet trade; captive breeding of most, while not regular, has been accomplished.
Dabb Lizards inhabit dry, rocky regions extending from Northwestern Africa south and east to Southwest Asia. Variety in color and pattern among populations of the same species is the rule. Some, such as the Ornate (U. ornate), Moroccan (U. nigriventris) and Mali (U. dispar) Dabb Lizards are spectacularly-colored, and all are most interesting to observe. A group of 13 Mali (or Sudan) Dabb Lizards that I housed in a huge exhibit at the Staten Island Zoo provided me with untold hours of interesting observations, and were favorites of zoo-goers young and old.
Unique adaptations to life in harsh landscapes includes upper “teeth” that are actually protrusions of the jaw bone (much like we see in African Bullfrogs and Horned Frogs), fused lower teeth, a tail modified for fat storage and defense and the ability to excrete excess salt from the nasal passages.
Preparing for Dabb Lizards
Experience with other, hardier desert lizards is useful for prospective Dabb Lizard keepers. Chuckwallas (Sauromalus obesus), while not closely related to Dabb Lizards, have many of the same husbandry requirements but are heartier and more readily available. Please read over my article on Chuckwalla Care for an overview of what to expect.
Range and other information about all species in the genus Uromastyx may be found here.
A video of a nicely-colored male Mali Dabb Lizard is posted here.