Home | Lizards | Spiny-Tailed Agamids – the Fascinating Lizards of the Genus Uromastyx -Part 2

Spiny-Tailed Agamids – the Fascinating Lizards of the Genus Uromastyx -Part 2

Please see Part I of this article for information on the natural history of the Spiny-Tailed Agamids (also know as Dabb Lizards or Mastigures).

Tempting, but….

Uromastyx hardwickiiUnfortunately, Dabb Lizards are difficult to resist, and hobbyists sometimes jump at the chance to own them without realizing what is involved in their care.  They require large enclosures, and many individuals become stressed if unable to construct the long burrows that are their natural retreats. 

Most species are quite quarrelsome, and difficult to house in groups – an exhibit of 13 Mali or Sudan Dabb Lizards (U. dispar) that I set up at the Staten Island Zoo, while very interesting and quite popular with zoo visitors, was sometimes maddening to manage!

Specific Requirements

Dabb Lizards have evolved to consume the high fiber, low-nutrient diet typical of desert-dwelling reptiles, and fail to thrive if their unique dietary needs are not met.  A diet that is too rich (i.e. high in fruit or insects) may kill them as quickly as will one lacking essential nutrients.  Many species relish such seemingly unappetizing foods as dry split peas, millet, canary seed and other grains.

Hailing from desert fringes and dry savannahs, Dabb Lizards require ambient temperatures of 86-95F, and basking sites of 100-120F; a sharp dip in temperature at night is beneficial, and a “winter” is necessary to induce breeding behavior in many species.  As would be expected, they fare poorly if not provided with high levels of both UVA and UVB radiation 

Further Reading

Not much has been done in the way of Uromastyx field research…this abstract from the Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine is most interesting.

Please see this Video for a look at the hand-feeding of a well-adjusted pet Egyptian Dabb Lizard.


Uromastyx hardwickii image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Nature Uploader

About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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