November 30, 2023
Control of invasive tegus in Florida

Photo: UF/IFAS

UF IFAS News Release

Control of invasive tegus in Florida

| 3/8/2018

While pythons have received a majority of public attention, invasive lizards also pose a significant threat to southern Florida's native wildlife and ecosystems. The Argentine black and white tegu (Salvator merianae, previously Tupinambis merianae) has been introduced through the pet trade and has established breeding populations in Hillsborough County (central Florida) and Miami-Dade County (southern Florida). Argentine black and white tegus are omnivores, eating a variety of plants and small animals, but are especially known for eating buried eggs of reptiles. We have documented tegus eating American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) and turtle eggs in Florida (See video below). The growth and spread of tegu populations has the potential to impact populations of threatened and endangered native species, such as American crocodiles, sea turtles, ground nesting birds, etc.

The University of Florida research team is collaborating with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the National Park Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the South Florida Water Management District to contain and reduce the tegu population. This includes:

  • Maximizing detection and removal of tegus in occupied areas
  • Preventing expansion to new areas (including both public and private lands)
  • Evaluating effectiveness of integrated outreach and current trapping programs
  • Using radio telemetry to understand how tegus move through the landscape and apply results to enhance removal

Trapping efforts for Argentine black and white tegus produced evidence for an established population of another South American species in Florida, the gold tegu (Tupinambis teguixin). Similar to Argentine black and white tegus, gold tegus are a potential threat to nesting indigenous wildlife because their diet in their native range includes eggs

Fact Sheet

The Argentine Black and White Tegu in South Florida (PDF)


How you can help stop the spread of tegus (PDF)

Everglades CISMA - Tegu Lizards

Miami Herald Coverage of UF Tegu Research

Select Publications

Edwards, J.R., Ketterlin, J.K., Rochford, M.R., Irwin, R., Krysko, K.L., Duduesnel, J.G., Mazzotti, F.J., & Reed, R.N. 2017. The Gold Tegu, Tupinambis teguixin (Linnaeus 1758)(Squamata: Teiidae): evidence for an established population in Florida. Bioinvasions Records 6(4): 407-410. Full PDF

Johnson, F.A., B.J. Smith, M. Bonneau, J. Martin, C. Romagosa, F. Mazzotti, H. Waddle, R.N. Reed, J. Ketterlin Eckles, L.J. Vitt. 2017. Expert elicitation, uncertainty, and the value of information in controlling invasive species. Ecological Economics 137: 83-90. Full PDF

Mazzotti, F.J., McEachern, M., Rochford, M.R., Reed, R.N., Ketterlin Eckles, J., Vinci, J., Edwards, J., Wasilewski, J. 2014. Tupinambis merianae as nest predators of crocodilians and turtles in Florida, USA. Biological Invasions DOI 10.1007/s10530-014-0730-1. Full PDF

Pernas, T., Giardina, D.J., McKinley, A., Parns, A., Mazzotti, F.J. 2012. First observations of nesting by the Argentine black and white tegu, Tupinambis merianae in south Florida. Southeastern Naturalist 11(4):765-770. Full PDF

This story is from UF's Croc Docs.


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