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Gila monster

Gila monster

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Scientific Name:

Heloderma suspectum


Distribution

SW USA, NW Mexico


Diet:

Carnivore. small mammals (young rabbits, mice and squirrels), birds, lizards, and eggs (of birds, lizards, snakes, turtles, and tortoises)


Facts

Habitat: Desert grasslands and scrublands (found in arid areas that typically contain scattered cacti, shrubs, mesquite, and grasses)

 

Incubation: 1-12 eggs, ~10 months incubation

 

Social structure: Solitary, but will though congregate in hibernation dens together with rattlesnakes. (EAZA husbandry guidelines)

 

Weight: 1kg max 

Dimensions: 55cm max 

 

Lifespan: 8-20 years

 

IUCN Status: Near Threatened

 

Estimated population in the wild: several thousand

 

Threats: Illegal exploitation by collectors, habitat destruction due to agriculture, canals, roads, highways and other human activities.

 

Did you know that:

  1. The Gila monster is named after the Gila River in Arizona.
  2. This is one of only two venomous lizards in the world. Its venom is used primarily for defense, not for capturing prey.
  3. A drug for the management of Type 2 diabetes is based on a protein from their saliva. The drug is sometimes referred to as "lizard spit".
  4. Gila monsters are able to survive for months without food as they store fat in their particularly large tail.
  5. The Gila monster lacks the ability to jump, contrary to popular myth.
  6. The Gila monster can eat a third of its body weight in one meal.
  7. Though it has little economic importance to humans, there is a small market for the hemipenis, which is used as an aphrodisiac.  
  8. They are often killed because they are poisonous even though they are legally protected in all states in which they are found.
  9. It has been reported that the Gila monster may flip over while its jaws are still clamped onto prey. This move may help its venom flow into the wound.
  10.  



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