The Gila Monster Lizard
The Gila Monster of the Sonoran and Mohave Deserts is one of the two types of poisonous lizards in the world.
There are only two types of poisonous lizards in the world. The Gila monster (Heloderma suspectum) is one of them. It lives in the Southwestern deserts of the United States, specifically in the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts. They can be found in gravelly and sandy soils, especially in areas with shrubs and some moisture. They are found under rocks, in the burrows of other animals, and in burrows they dig themselves.
The other poisonous lizard is the Gila monster’s closest relative, the Bearded lizard. The Bearded lizard can be found in Mexico.
The Gila monster is named after the Gila (Hee-Luh) River basin in Arizona.
Gila monsters are rarely more than twenty inches long. Its skin is brightly patterned in a blotch-like formation, and it is black and coral in color. The face is black. This color and patterning is nature’s warning for other animals to stay away. They instinctively know it is a dangerous animal. Its color will vary with the habitat. It has strong claws for digging burrows. It moves sluggishly, but it can swap ends and snap rapidly. When a Gila monster feels threatened, it throws its head in the air. Then it snorts and puffs. There isn’t a lot to eat in the hot, sandy deserts, thus the Gila monster eats as much as it can and stores fat in its tail. The fat can be broken down to provide energy and water. It can live off the fat in its tail for months or even years.
Gila monsters mate throughout the summer. Three to five eggs are laid from fall to winter.
The Gila monster is primarily nocturnal, although they are often active on warm winter or spring days.
The bite of the Gila monster is poisonous and can be extremely dirty causing infection. When it bites, the jaws lock and the Gila monster hangs on. The amount of poison depends on how long the Gila monster stays there. Its teeth are loosely set in its jaw and if its body is pulled sharply, the teeth can be pulled out and the victim can be free of the giant lizard. The Gila monster’s poison spills into its mouth from a gland in its bottom jaw. The lizard uses its special grooved teeth to chew the poison into its victim. Drop by drop, a Gila monster’s poison is more deadly than that of a rattlesnake. It attacks the nerves of the victim and causes horrible pain and paralysis. The poison seems to be an anticoagulant causing the wounds to bleed freely, accompanied by extreme swelling. Fortunately, the Gila monster rarely injects enough poison to kill a person. However, it is recommended that ice be used on the wound and medical assistance be obtained immediately.
Similar to many other poisonous animals, the Gila monster is immune to its own poison. This means the Gila monster can be bitten by another Gila monster or even bite itself without being poisoned.
Its poison is mainly used for hunting, but sometimes it is used for self-defense.
There are not many Gila monsters, and thus, they are protected by law.