Gila Monster

 

Gila Monster
Heloderma suspectum


Quick Facts

Gila Monster

Found:  Southwest U.S. & Mexico
Size:  2 feet
Weight:  1 1/2  to 2 pounds
Diet:  mostly nestling birds and eggs
Life Span:  Up to 20 years
Status:  Threatened


The Gila monster (pronounced hee-la) and its close cousin, the Mexican beaded lizard, are the only two venomous lizards in the world.  It is the largest venomous lizard in the United States and gets its name from Gila River in Arizona.  Their venom is made by a row of glands in the lizard’s lower jaw.  When they bite, small grooves in the teeth help the venom flow into the victim.  The bite of a gila monster is very strong, and they may not loosen their grip for several seconds.  It may even chew so that the venom goes deeper into the wound.  They are solitary and live in desert and semi-desert areas with just enough moisture to support a few shrubs. The lizards prefer rocky foothills and are inactive much of the time, hiding in burrows or under rocks. During cold winter months, they stay in their burrows and use their tail fat storage to keep them alive.  They begin to hunt again in the spring.  In 2005, the US Food and Drug Administration approved a drug for the management of Type 2 diabetes based on a protein from the gila monster’s saliva.