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6 Cool Facts about Uromastyx aka Spiny-Tailed Lizards

Learn six cool facts about the uromastyx, aka spiny-tailed lizards, from reptile and amphibian expert Jungle Bob in this Howcast video.


All animals, of course, have a Latin name, and the pet industry is famous for making up common names. This is one animal that didn't make that cut. The Uromastyx is actually its Latin or genus name, just like homo sapiens are people, the Uromastyx is a Uromastyx type of lizard. In their native North Africa, they're called a lot of different things, the Spiny Tail Lizard, the Dab Lizard. Country to country you'll hear different terms for these and you'll see different subspecies with different colorations and different sizes.

But they all inhabit the same area: the northern Sahara Desert. And what is it there? It's hot. This animal can tolerate amazingly intense temperatures, and he does so by living on a variety of vegetation very sparsely grown there. Cactus and things of that nature are where he gets 99 percent of his water from. They withhold water beautifully. It's lucky for them because in that area of the world they wouldn't survive too long without it. They are a nervous creature that, when startled in the wild, will usually make a bee-line for any kind of a rocky crevice. And that's the place that they live in, usually very flat rocks.

They'll actually inflate their bodies once they get inside that rock and pin themselves in between. By inflating with air, they wedge themselves in and you can't get them out. Better than that, the back of their tail, if you pet them this way it's not that bad, but this way it's almost like little razor blades. That's a very sharp tail. And if that might not make it inside the rock and protrudes, a predator would not be able to bite him on that. It's very sharp. It would hurt its tongue, would hurt its mouth, and the lizard would live to see another day. So the Dab Lizard, the Spiny Tail Lizard, or the common Uromastyx is really a creature who has figured out a way to survive in one of the most inhospitable areas on the planet, really, that being the Sahara Desert and Northern Africa.

Straight vegetarian in its diet. They also have a habit of eating. There's a food item that comes from that area of the world that always makes me laugh because the only time we ever see it is in soup, and that is a lentil. Lentil soup is all you ever see lentils, right? But lentil is a seed that grows naturally in that area, and when they are in season that is a favorite of a wild Uromastyx lizard. They crack the lentils.

It is sometimes called the Toad-Headed Lizard because its head, if you separate it from the body for a second, almost looks amphibian like, so it sometimes gets that other common nickname. But really a tremendous creature. The Egyptian version gets up to 3 feet in size. The Uromastyx from Northern Africa.

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