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The senior author contacted Dr. Ulrich Joger in Germany who specializes on the taxonomy of lizards of the genus Uromastyx and provided him with several photographs of the newly imported spiny-tailed lizards.  Dr. Jogger quickly responded that these lizards had recently been imported into Germany  and that they were the same species he had been studying for several year, however he had previously seen only one live specimen.  He concurred with our observation that the males and females were sexually dichromatic (i.e., their colors were different!) now that he had seen live specimens and reviewed the photographs provided by Randall.  He had a paper in press describing them as a new species but had not discussed the color differences between the sexes since the museum specimens had lost their color in the preserving fluids.  He further explained that for many years this species' status had been in question and many herpetologists assumed it was a subspecies of Uromastyx acanthinurus.  Dr. Joger exchanged letters and photographs for the next 10 months but he would not share the scientific name he had given this species until it was published in a peer reviewed journal.  This protocol of publishing the name first is not unusual and part of the unwritten rules of the scientific community.  Eventually his paper came out in the Journal of African Zoology  (Joger 1996) and the name Uromastyx maliensis was born.

The Mali spiny-tailed lizard, keep in mind that science has known of the species for a long time it's just that its taxonomy was uncertain, occurs in northern Mali and extreme southwest Algeria.  The distribution partly overlaps the range of Uromastyx acanthinurus geyri which was once considered a distinct species.  Randall obtained photographs of these animals being collected in Mali during the late winter of 1997 which helped to discern their habitat.  They are found in open areas of hard packed sand with scant vegetation. They excavate burrows that are over six feet deep.

Husbandry and Propagation

The Mali spiny-tailed lizards were set up and kept like other members of the genus Uromastyx  (Gray 1996 and Gray In Press).  They were provided a heat lamp at one end of the cage for basking and full spectrum bulbs to simulate natural sunlight.  Temperatures under the lamp exceed 110F and the temperature furthest away from the lamp stays around 85F.  The lights are turned off at night so the cage temperature will drop to around 65F-70F.  They are fed a combination of  turnip and mustard greens along with peas, corn, carrots and bird seed.  Their salads are supplemented with a vitamin/mineral containing calcium and D3.  Crickets and superworms are provided once or twice a week and are eagerly consumed.

Tests for parasites proved positive and the animals were treated with Panacure?.  Blood work on some of  Mark's animals exhibited low levels of harmful bacteria which was treated with the antibiotic Batryl?.  Unfortunately Mark lost several animals in hibernation or soon thereafter.  Their deaths were most likely caused  by the bacterial infections.

After the animals gained weight and appeared healthy they were cooled down to stimulate the reproductive cycle.  In late December the cage temperatures were decreased to approximately 55F for 24 hours a day.

The animals were removed from hibernation in mid-February after six to eight weeks.  Soon the animals exhibited signs of social interaction.  The males would bob his heads dramatically and circle the females.  They would then press their snout into the female's side and push and sometimes bite her on the side.  The females would roll on their backs and the male would lie on top so that their bellies were touching. Copulation was not observed during these displays of behavior.

Breeding  was observed during the first week of March.  The male would pursue the female around the cage biting her neck.  When he secured a good grip on the back of the neck she stopped running and he moved his tail under hers and inserted his hemipene.  Between mid-April and mid-May five females in both of our collections laid eggs.  Two methods were used to provide egg deposition sites.  One female was provided a plastic tub with sterilized potting soil place in it and a hole cut into the lid.  The other four females were provided with a four inch deep pile of moist sand placed at one end of the cage.   All the eggs were removed from the cages and placed into styrofoam incubators.  One clutch of eggs was placed in a tray with two inches of a moist sand and vermiculite mixture and the other four clutches were placed in only moist vermiculite. Incubation temperatures and days to hatching are summarized in the Table below.

Table.  Reproductive data for the Mali spiny-tailed lizard.
Date Eggs Laid Number of Eggs Laid Incubation Temperature Hatching Date Days of Incubation Number of Eggs Hatched
April 18 12 89?F --- --- 0
April 28 25 89?F July 19 80 1
April 30 15 88?F July 29-August 8 90-100 14
May 7 20 89?F July 24-28 78-82 8
May 10 12 89?F July 24-28 75-79 7

The hatchlings averaged about two inches and weighed six to eight grams.  They doubled their weight in the first 30 days.  By November many of the hatchlings had grown to 5 and one half inches and weighed forty to forty-five grams.  As with most species of Uromastyx, the young had to be separated because they became very aggressive towards each other.  In fact, several animals were severely wounded and one died.

As of this writing, Mali spiny-tailed lizards are still being imported in large numbers into the United States.  A collector in Mali said they have to work harder to find the animals because their populations have been heavily harvested.  Unfortunately the Mali government does not seem concerned with the species conservation and has not adequately protected it by limiting exportation.

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.

     Joger, Ulrich and Michael R.K. Lambert. 1996.  Analysis of the herpetofauna of the Republic of Mali, I. Annotated inventory, with description of a new Uromastyx (Sauria:Agamidae).  Journal of Arican Zoology 110(1):21-51.