The Gila (pronounced HEE-luh) is the largest lizard native to the United States and measure up to two feet (0.6 meters) long and weigh over five pounds (2.3 kilograms).
They are named after the Arizona Gila River basin, where they were first discovered.
Facts about Gila Monsters:
There are only a few poisonous lizards in the world and the Gila monster is one of them. The Gila (pronounced HEE-luh) is the largest lizard native to the United States and measures up to two feet (0.6 meters) long and weighs over five pounds (2.3 kilograms).
Their black bodies are covered in bead-like scales with bright spots, blotches, or bands of pink, orange, or yellow, which probably warn other animals to stay away. Their bulky bodies, slow-moving stride, thick forked tongue, and snorting hisses, reinforce the name Gila monster.
They live in the dry, arid regions such as the Mojave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan deserts of the southwestern U.S. and northwestern Mexico. They are named after the Arizona Gila River basin, where they were first discovered.
Gila monsters are more likely to use their venom on a predator than on prey. They clamp their jaws down with the power of a vise grip. Then the venom in their bottom jaw flows through their grooved teeth into the victim. Although the Gila's bite is extremely painful, no human death has been reported. They will only attack a human when disturbed.
Gilas are sluggish creatures that feed primarily on eggs raided from bird nests and newborn mammals, such as rabbits and squirrels. They sometimes eat quail eggs whole without crushing the shells. They spend about 95 percent of their time underground and emerge only to hunt for food or to take a sun bath.
They don't need to eat very often because they can store fat in their large tails. They are able to go months and even a year between meals.
They are rarely seen in the colder winter months and are most often encountered March through June.
Gila monsters are threatened due to development around their habitat.
Fast Facts: The scientific name for the Gila monster is Heloderma suspectum
The Gila monster is a carnivorous reptile.
In the wild, Gilas can live to be 20 to 30 years old.
Scientists have made a synthetic version of a protein found in Gila saliva and use it as a treatment for diabetes in humans.