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Goldteju Tupinambis teguixin.jpg
Tupinambis teguixin
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Superfamily: Lacertoidea
Family: Teiidae
Gray, 1827

18, See text.

Teiidae is a family of autarchoglossan lizards native to the Americas. Members of this family are generally known as whiptails or racerunners; however, tegus also belong to this family. Teiidae is sister to the Gymnopthalmidae, and both families comprise the Teiioidea. The Teiidae includes several parthenogenic species – a mode of clonal reproduction. Presently, the Teiidae consists of approximately 150 species in eighteen genera.

Morphology and behavior

Teiids can be distinguished from other lizards by the following characteristics: they have large rectangular scales that form distinct transverse rows ventrally and generally small granular scales dorsally, they have head scales that are separate from the skull bones, and the teiid teeth are solid at the base and "glued" to the jaw bones. Additionally, all teiids have a forked, snake-like tongue. They all possess well-developed limbs.

Teiids are all terrestrial (few are semi-aquatic) and diurnal, and are primarily carnivorous or insectivorous. Most teiids forage quite actively within their ideal temperature range, quickly skirting between cover objects. Some will include a small amount of plant matter in their diet. They are oviparous, and some species laying very large clutches.


Several species of whiptail lizards are entirely female and no males are known.


The Teiidae contains approximately 150 species divided into two subfamilies and 18 genera. This assessment includes several recent changes: three resurrected genera, five newly described genera, and the large genus Cnemidophorus split into Aspidoscelis and Cnemidophorus. In some technical literature, the Teiidae are referred to as macroteiids (in opposition to the microteiids, which are members of a sister family Gymnopthalmidae). Parthenogenetic lineages are generally referred to as species, though the concept of a species is meant loosely. Other terms include array, clone, type, or morph.

  • Subfamily Teiinae:
    • Ameiva – junglerunners (14 species)
    • Ameivula – (11 species)
    • Aspidoscelis – North American whiptail lizards (46 species)
    • Aurivela – (2 species)
    • Cnemidophorus – South American whiptail lizards (19 species)
    • Contomastix – (6 species)
    • Dicrodon – desert tegus (3 species)
    • Glaucomastix – (5 species)
    • Holcosus – (18 species)
    • Kentropyx – (9 species)
    • Medopheos – (1 species)
    • Pholidoscelis – (20 species)
    • Teius – (3 species)
  • Subfamily Tupinambinae:
    • Callopistes – false monitors (4 species)
    • Crocodilurus – the crocodile tegu (1 species)
    • Dracaena – caiman lizards (3 species)
    • Salvator – (3 species)
    • Tupinambis – tegus (8 species)

See also

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