SW USA, NW Mexico
Carnivore. small mammals (young rabbits, mice and squirrels), birds, lizards, and eggs (of birds, lizards, snakes, turtles, and tortoises)
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:
- The Gila monster is named after the Gila River in Arizona.
- This is one of only two venomous lizards in the world. Its venom is used primarily for defense, not for capturing prey.
- 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".
- Gila monsters are able to survive for months without food as they store fat in their particularly large tail.
- The Gila monster lacks the ability to jump, contrary to popular myth.
- The Gila monster can eat a third of its body weight in one meal.
- Though it has little economic importance to humans, there is a small market for the hemipenis, which is used as an aphrodisiac.
- They are often killed because they are poisonous even though they are legally protected in all states in which they are found.
- 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.