North African Mastigure Fact File

Uromastyx acanthinura

Credit: Joxerra Aihartza, FAL, via Wikimedia Commons








Wild 20 years

Captive 20 years



Plants, Insects

Conservation Status


Least Concern

The North African mastigure is a species of lizard found across Northern Africa. They live in burrows within desert and rocky habitats.

They are omnivores which feed on both plants and insects. Adults rely more on plants as they grow and will reach a point where they consume almost no insects.

Females deposit their eggs within their burrow in another chamber. They will then protect the eggs against predation.

This species is threatened by habitat degradation and collection for food or the pet trade.

Read on to learn more about these radical reptiles.


What does the North African Mastigure look like?

These animals have a short, armored tail which is thick along most of its length. This is covered by a number of spiny scales. Across the rest of their body they are covered by very small scales.

The coloration of their scales will vary with the weather. During cold weather they are gray or yellowish. When warm they will become orange, red or yellow.

Their armored tail is used to block the entrance to their burrow. This helps to deter entry by predators. They may also inflate their body to help keep them safe. It can also be used in attacks on predators.

An average North African mastigure will measure 30-40cm (12-16in) long with an average weight of 450g (15.86oz). There is no noticeable sexual dimorphism in this species but males are commonly more colorful than females.


What does the North African Mastigure eat?

These animals are omnivores. Their diet includes insects and plants. They tend to reply more on plant material as they grow to the point that adults may consume almost no insects.

The plant matter in their diet will help to provide most of their water needs.

North African mastigure (Uromastyx acanthinura)

Credit: Public Domain


Where can you find the North African Mastigure?

Africa is the native home of the North African Mastigure. Here they can be found in Algeria; Chad; Libya; Mali; Morocco; Niger; Sudan and Tunisia.

Their current status in Western Sahara is uncertain.

The species was introduced to the Canary Islands with the first records from 1997.


What kind of environment does the North African Mastigure live in?

The North African mastigure is found in shrubland, rocky habitats and desert.

They will seek shelter in a burrow. These are dug in to areas of open sand. They will avoid areas of dense stone. The use of burrows is also important to help regulate their temperature during the warm weather experienced in their habitat.

These animals are territorial and will not tolerate other individuals in their habitat.

-- AD --


How does the North African Mastigure produce its young?

Mating takes place from March to July. Egg laying takes place one month after mating.

A clutch of eggs from the North African mastigure will include 20-30 eggs. These are deposited in side chambers of their main burrow. She will then smooth the nest site over to disguise it.

As the eggs are inside the females burrow she will work to protect them.

Sexual maturity is reached at four years old. At this time they will take on their colorful pattern. Males tend to reach maturity faster than the females.


What does the North African Mastigure do with its day?

These lizards are highly territorial and will act aggressively when defending their territory. They may bite one another on the side and they are commonly seen with scar tissue from this.

They are active only on warm days. They will sit with their body pointed towards the sun and wait for their internal temperature to become high enough that they can commence foraging.

Periods of inactivity occur during winter and summer when the temperatures become too warm or too cold.

North African mastigure (Uromastyx acanthinura)

Credit: Public Domain

Predators and Threats

What is impacting the survival of the North African Mastigure?

Natural predators of this species include reptiles including larger lizards and snakes, birds such as raptors and mammals such as dogs.

Numbers of the North African mastigure are declining across their range. Despite being one of the least studied lizards in Africa it appears they are suffering a significant decline.

Threats faced by this species include collection in large numbers for the pet trade along with use as food or in traditional medicines. In some areas it is believe that this species will provide protection against witchcraft and people will collect them to keep there.

Large numbers are also impacted by vehicle strikes.

Grazing and collection of stone from their habitat for building is likely to degrade their habitat and make it less habitable.

Quick facts

They may also be known as the North African spiny-tailed lizard or Bell's Dabb Lizard.

This species was first described for western science in 1825.

North African mastigure (Uromastyx acanthinura)

Credit: 4028mdk09, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Wagner, P., Wilms, T., Slimani, T., El Mouden, E.H., Mateo, J.A., Geniez, P. & Nouira, M.S. 2021. Uromastyx acanthinuraThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2021: e.T198535A2531202. Accessed on 01 January 2022. 2022. Bell's Dabb Lizard (Uromastyx acanthinura) - JungleDragon. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 1 January 2022].

The Reptile Database. 2022. Uromastyx acanthinura. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 1 January 2022].

2022. Uromastyx acanthinura (Bell's Dabb Lizard). [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 1 January 2022].

Climans, M. 2011. "Uromastyx acanthinura" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed January 01, 2022 at

Most Popular Animal this Week

Credit: Under License

Redbubble Store.

Similar Species

mexican beaded lizard
Armadillo Girdled Lizard

Latest lizard news stories


Copyright The Animal Facts 2023

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap