The Gila Monster
The Gila monster is a stout-bodied lizard that grows 18 to 24 inches in length. It has black, orange, pink or yellow broken blotches, bars and spots, with bands extending onto its blunt tail. Its face is black, and it has small, bead-like scales across its back. It is named for the Gila River Basin of the southwestern United States.
The Gila monster is one of only two species of venomous lizards; both are of the family Helodermatidae and both are similar in appearance and habits. Its venomous cousin, the Mexican beaded lizard (Heloderma horridum), is slightly larger and darker.
Most of the Gila monster's teeth have two grooves that conduct its venom, a nerve toxin, from glands in the lower jaw. The toxin is not injected like that of the snake, but flows into the wound as the lizard chews on its victim. While the bite can overpower predators and prey, it is rarely fatal to humans.
There are two subspecies of Gila monsters in the deserts of the Southwest:
- H.s. suspectum (reticulate) resides primarily in the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts. Adults are mottled and blotched.
- H.s. cinctum (banded) resides primarily in the Mojave Desert. Adults have a broad double crossband.
Mojave, Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts of extreme southwestern Utah, southern Nevada, southeastern California, Arizona and southwestern New Mexico into Mexico.
Desert and semiarid regions of gravelly and sandy soils with shrubs. Found under rocks, in burrows of other animals and in holes it digs itself.
During warm weather the Gila monster feeds at night on small mammals, birds and eggs. Fat stored in the tail and abdomen during this period is utilized during the winter months. Both species of Heloderma are sluggish in habit, but they have a strong, tenacious bite.
Gila monsters mate throughout the summer months, with the female laying 3 to 5 eggs in sandy soils, burrows or under rocks, during fall or winter.
Great American Southwest 3D puzzle Gila Monster model
The information provided on this web site and by this web site through content provided by Authors or third party providers, and in other sources to which it refers, is PROVIDED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY and should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease.
Information provided at and by DesertUSA is NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL CARE. If you have a medical concern, or suspect you have a health problem you should consult your primary doctor or specialist.
If you cannot agree to this Health and Medical Disclaimer, you are not permitted to use this web site and should exit immediately.
SEARCH THIS SITE
View Video about The Black Widow Spider. The female black widow spider is the most venomous spider in North America, but it seldom causes death to humans, because it only injects a very small amount of poison when it bites. Click here to view video.
Despite its pussycat appearance when seen in repose, the bobcat is quite fierce and is equipped to kill animals as large as deer. However, food habit studies have shown bobcats subsist on a diet of rabbits, ground squirrels, mice, pocket gophers and wood rats. Join us as we watch this sleepy bobcat show his teeth.
The Mountain Lion, also known as the Cougar, Panther or Puma, is the most widely distributed cat in the Americas. It is unspotted -- tawny-colored above overlaid with buff below. It has a small head and small, rounded, black-tipped ears. Watch one in this video.