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Egyptian Spiny-Tailed Lizard Fact File

Uromastyx aegyptica

Credit: Zoovolunteer1961, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Weight

2.5kg

(5.5lbs)

Length

25-60cm

(10-23.6in)

Lifespan

Wild 15 years

Captive 15 years

Diet

Herbivore

Vegetation

Conservation Status

IUCN

Vulnerable

The Egyptian spiny-tailed lizard is a native of Africa and the Middle East. Their name comes from the spikes which are used to defend them. It is thrashed around when a predator approaches.

During the day these lizard will seek shelter in a burrow to escape the high temperatures in their range.

They seek low vegetation near their burrows on which to feed. During drought they will begin consuming insects to survive.

Egyptian spiny-tailed lizards are decreasing in number across their range as a result of habitat loss and collection for the pet trade and use in traditional medicines.

Read on to learn more about these remarkable reptiles.

Appearance

What does the Egyptian Spiny-Tailed Lizard look like?

Across their entire body the Egyptian spiny-tailed lizard is covered by yellow colored scales.

During periods of colder weather they will become darker in color which helps them to absorb warmth. When they are out in warm weather they will be a lighter color to help reflect the heat.

At the end of their body is a strong, weaponized tail. It is short and covered with sharp spines.

When resting in the burrow they can sit with the tail facing out and when a predator approaches they will thrash it about to hit anything which approaches.

Their body will measure between 25 and 60cm (10-23.6in) long with a weight of 2.5kg (5.5lbs). Females tend to be smaller and have duller patterning when compared to a male.

Diet

What does the Egyptian Spiny-Tailed Lizard eat?


These animals are herbivores and will feed on low vegetation which is located near the burrow. Juveniles eat small amounts of insects and adults may consume these during drought.

Egyptian Spiny Tailed Lizard

Credit: Public Domain

Range

Where can you find the Egyptian Spiny-Tailed Lizard?

Africa and the Middle East is the native home of the Egyptian spiny-tailed lizard. Here they can be found in the following countries – Egypt; Iran; Iraq; Israel; Jordan; Kuwait; Oman; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; Syrian Arab Republic; United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

Habitat

What kind of environment does the Egyptian Spiny-Tailed Lizard live in?

These animals make their home in shrubland and desert habitats in areas of open, flat, gravelly soil. Occasionally they will venture in to sandy areas.

They do not persist in areas which are being used for agriculture.

These animals dig extensive, underground burrows in which they can spend their time.

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Reproduction

How does the Egyptian Spiny-Tailed Lizard produce its young?

Females deposit between 7 and 17 eggs on average per clutch. She will dig a burrow in to which these can be deposited. Once eggs hatch the young may remain in the burrow for a period of time.

These eggs will incubate for between 8 and 10 weeks.

Sexual maturity is reached at 4 years old.

Behavior

What does the Egyptian Spiny-Tailed Lizard do with its day?

They spend their life with other Egyptian spiny-tailed lizards in a loose colony. Females are in charge within these colonies.

Due to the warm temperatures in their range they will spend much of the day below the ground before emerging at night to forage.

Egyptian Spiny Tailed Lizard

Credit: Public Domain

Predators and Threats

What is impacting the survival of the Egyptian Spiny-Tailed Lizard?

Populations of the Egyptian spiny-tailed lizard are in decline. Their distribution is fragmented.

Causes of their decline include collection for trade both as pets, food and for use in medicine, especially their oil. This is both to supply local markets and for export internationally. Their strong skin has previously been turned in to leather.

Habitat loss is another factor from over-grazing, human expansion both for living and agriculture and the use of off-road vehicles. They are also directly impacted by vehicle strikes.

Quick facts

These lizards are also known as the Egyptian mastigure, Egyptian uromastyx and the Egyptian dabb lizard.

They have developed a mutualistic relationship with the Arabian fattail scorpion. The lizard allows the scorpion to make use of its burrow and in turn the scorpion provides some protection against predators.

The common name uromastyx came from an Ancient Greek word meaning tail-whip or tail-scourge.

Egyptian Spiny Tailed Lizard

Credit: איתן פרמן, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

References

Bayly, S., 2021. Illustrated encyclopaedia of peculiar pairs in nature, the. Hachette Australia.

Wilms, T., Eid, E.K.A., Al Johany, A.M.H., Amr, Z.S.S., Els, J., Baha El Din, S., Disi, A.M., Sharifi, M., Papenfuss, T., Shafiei Bafti, S. & Werner, Y.L. 2012. Uromastyx aegyptia (errata version published in 2017). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T164729A115304711. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2012.RLTS.T164729A1071308.en. Downloaded on 11 October 2021.

JG, J., 2021. Spiny-tailed Lizard. [online] Realmonstrosities.com. Available at: <http://www.realmonstrosities.com/2015/01/spiny-tailed-lizard.html> [Accessed 11 October 2021].

Virginia Zoo. 2021. Egyptian Spiny-tailed Lizard – Virginia Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://virginiazoo.org/animal/egyptian-spiny-tailed-lizard/> [Accessed 11 October 2021].

Lehigh Valley Zoo. 2021. Egyptian Uromastyx – Lehigh Valley Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://www.lvzoo.org/animals/egyptian-uromastyx> [Accessed 11 October 2021].

Genomics.senescence.info. 2021. Egyptian spiny-tailed lizard (Uromastyx aegyptia) longevity, ageing, and life history. [online] Available at: <https://genomics.senescence.info/species/entry.php?species=Uromastyx_aegyptia> [Accessed 11 October 2021].

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