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Captive Reproduction of "Rainbow Benti" Spiny-tailed Lizards (Uromastyx benti)

by

Randall L. Gray

Bentís spiny-tailed lizards (Uromastyx benti) occur in the rocky coast line region of Yemen on the Saudia Arabian peninsula. This species is not well know in captivity since it is only infrequently available to the pet trade. Most of the imported lizards were either reddish, particularly the males, or a light to dark tan color. In 1997 a shipment of Bentís spiny-tailed lizards arrived in the United States, however a significant number of the animals were strikingly different in color. At first they were erroneously identified as Uromastyx ocellatus philbyi which some dealers still advertise them as. Later they were thought to be a new color morph of Uromastyx benti (Thomas Wilms 1997, personal communication). The taxonomy of the genus Uromastyx is still dynamic since there are many populations that have not been fully examined To distinguish their uniqueness, the pet industryrefers to them as "Rainbow Benti" and "Mountain Benti."

The males have bluish torsos with white spots that diffuses into a reddish tint toward the rear legs and tails. The females are a light tan with some having reddish tails. As with most species of spiny-tail lizards, their colors are most vibrant when their body temperature are elevated above approximately 100° F. Color and hemipenal bulges are the best way to tell the sexes apart because Bentís spiny-tail lizards do not have femoral pores.

I acquired several pair in April 1997 and housed them similarly to the way I keep other species of spiny-tailed lizards. (Gray In Press and Gray 1996). Specifically, I placed pairs in 4 ft by 2 ft long metal stock tanks with a washed play sand substrate. Concrete construction blocks are used to simulate crevices for escape and resting cover as well as basking sites. Two 48 inch Zoomed Reptisunâ fluorescent bulbs provide light and a 90 watt halogen flood light provides a hot basking spot. Daytime ambient temperatures often exceed 100° F and the basking spot is well over 120° F. Night time temperatures drop as low as 70° F during the spring, summer and fall (March to October). However, night temperatures average 75° F.

I feed the lizards a diet of peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, corn, green beans, turnip greens, mustard greens, alfalfa, and various seeds. I add Repcalâ to the salad several times a week to ensure that they obtain sufficient quantities of calcium and vitamin D3. Superworms or crickets are offered once or twice a week.

During the winter, I allow the cage temperature to drop as low as 55° F during the night but provide a warm basking spot during the day. I continue to feed the lizards, albeit less frequently, throughout the winter. In March, I turn on a space heater to keep the night temperature above 70° F and allow the daytime temperatures to exceed 100° F.

An egg laying site was provide by cutting a hole in a small plastic tub (10 inches by 5 inches). Moist washed play sand is placed in the tub to offer a medium for the lizard to bury her eggs.

On June 9, 1998 one of the females laid 10 eggs. I removed the eggs from the plastic container and placed them on top of slightly moist vermiculite and incubated at 86° F. On September 1 the eggs averaged 52 mm long and weighed 12-17 grams. Nine animals hatched between September 25 and September 30 after 106 to 111 days of incubation. One animal was extremely weak so it was euthanized. The hatchlings weighed 8 grams and were 69 mm snout-vent length and 117 mm total length.

The hatchlings were broken up into three groups and setup similar to the adults but in smaller 2 ft by 2 ft cages. They are fed a diet comprised of baby sweet peas, grated carrots or sweet potatoes, mustard greens, and turnip greens. A D3 and calcium supplement (Repcalâ ) is provided several times a week as are small crickets.

LITERATURE CITED

Gray, Randall L. In Press. Herpetoculture of Desert Lizards. Advanced Vivarium Systems

Gray, Randall L. 1996. Spiny-tailed lizards: Captive care of the genus Uromastyx. REPTILES Annual 1997. Fancy Publications. pp. 4-12.