There are 11 species of the genus Uromastix inhabiting the desert regions of North Africa and North-Western Asia. Only one species, Uromastix hardwickii, is represented in India. It is found almost throughout North-Western India (Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh) and Gujarat. It has not been reported from South India. It is also found in Sindh and Baluchistan in Pakistan. The lizard is commonly known as “Sanda” in Hindi and “Sanha” in Punjabi.
Uromastix is gentle and quiet in habit and it can be easily tamed in captivity. The mode of progression is of “walking type”. It is a burrowing lizard. It digs its own burrow in the ground with its powerful claws. It is diurnal. It retreats into burrow at night or in the day during very hot or cold weather. The burrow is also used for shelter and protection against enemies and for laying eggs. At night, the lizard closes the entrance of the burrow for safety.
It is chiefly herbivorous and feeds on grasses, flowers, fruits and succulent leaves of wild shrubs and trees. It sometimes preys on insects. In captivity, it can be fed on pieces of bread and moistened or roasted gram. During winter, usually from December to March, Uromastix undergoes hibernation in order to avoid the cold season. It suspends feeding, slows down all activities and passes through a period of dormancy inside its burrow. During hibernation, the lizard lives on the accumulated fat of the body.
The breeding season of Uromastix begins in March and April in Northern India. During breeding season, the males become agile and aggressive and resort to fighting for the females. Courtship precedes copulation which takes place generally between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on a clear warm and sunny day. During mating, the male everts both its hemipenes, one of which is inserted into the cloaca of the female to discharge the spermatic fluid.
Fertilisation is internal. Uromastix is oviparous. The female lizard lays about 10 to 15 large eggs which possess thin membranous shell. The eggs are laid in the burrow of the female in late April or early May. The eggs measure 20 to 30 mm in size, are dusty white in colour, rich in yolk and develop with the heat of the sun. Cleavage is meroblastic. The newly hatched young resemble the parents.
Uromastix inhabits dry sandy tracts such as deserts with scanty vegetation. It lives in individual burrows and prefers dry places. It is usually found in soft yellowish soil. It is also called “Sand lizard” because of its sandy habitat.
The flesh of Uromastix, particularly the tail muscles, is eaten by some tribal people and considered a delicacy. The oil extracted from its fat bodies is sold by roadside quacks, is claimed as cure for impotence and used for massage.
The powder of its faeces mixed with “kajal” is supposed to cure corneal opacity. The skin of this lizard is used for making fancy leather articles and even exported. Nowadays these articles are not much in demand. Uromastix is also used as a suitable material for dissection in the laboratories and also studied in the classroom.