Animal Magic video: Spiky and colourful lizards

Welcome to Animal Magic – a series of fortnightly columns where we take an in-depth look at some of Tilgate Nature Centre’s popular, and less well-known animal residents.

This week we take a look at a lizard with a spiky way of protecting themselves and a love of sunbathing.

jpco 2-4-14 Animal Magic at Tilgate Nature Cerntre. Spiny Tailed Lizard (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-140331-110438001

jpco 2-4-14 Animal Magic at Tilgate Nature Cerntre. Spiny Tailed Lizard (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-140331-110438001

Spiny-tailed Lizard

(Uromastyx acanthinurus)

North Africa to Tilgate

There are around 13 species of Uromastyx lizard which inhabit rocky, arid areas from North Africa to the Middle East.

Our spiny-tailed lizards descend from North Africa and can be found in our Discovery Room with other species including the pancake tortoises and plated lizards.

The group will soon move into a new home as part of our new African themed section.

Colourful males and spiky tails

As their name suggests their tails are adorned with rings of spikes and are used like a club to protect themselves from attackers.

The species we keep can grow to a length of about 30cm and weigh almost 500g.

These lizards are predominately grey but adults, especially males, can have a range of colourings. Our male has yellow and orange markings covering his head and back.

Mothers will bury their eggs which hatch after about 70 days; the hatchling lizards must then dig their way out and will immediately start fending for themselves.

Leaf lovers

For spiny-tailed lizards, plants are almost always the only thing on the menu.

While in the wild they will sometimes eat insects, greens are important as this is where they get most of their water from. To get rid of excess salts this species can blow them out of their nostrils.

We feed our group a range of plants including watercress, Chinese leaf and dandelion leaves. To keep them all healthy we dust their food with calcium supplements as well as alfalfa and specially formulated pellets.

Soaking up the sun

Many of us enjoy a bit of sunbathing but for spiny-tailed lizards it’s vital for their health. As desert animals they require high daytime temperatures as sunlight allows them to absorb calcium – a mineral needed for healthy bones, nerve function and eggs.

They spend their nights in burrows but when the sun emerges so do they, spending their time basking in the sun.

As they warm up their colourings actually become more vivid.

We provide our lizards with a special UVB light for them to bask under.

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