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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

Gila Monster Facts You’ll Never Forget

Gila Monster facts, one of the largest venomous lizards with colorful scales

The Gila Monster is a large lizard that is endemic to the United States. Gila is pronounced 'hee-la,' and they were termed so after being first discovered in Arizona's Gila River basin. The reptile is one of the largest venomous lizards in the world. They are colorful reptiles with bright black, pink, orange, and yellow patterns. They live in underground burrows and are migratory animals. They prefer living in scrubland, and succulent deserts. Gila Monsters store fat in their tails and use it during brumation. They are solitary animals and only during the breeding season do they socialise. Sexual dimorphism is seen in this species and so is polyandry. They are bred in captivity and are found in America's zoos. There were many myths surrounding this reptile because of its venomous nature as the foul smell around the breath of this reptile is considered poisonous. The bite is harmful but not fatal for human beings. The Gila Monster was featured as one of the characters in a 2011 feature film named 'Rango.'

If you like this article, please also go through our other articles, frilled lizard and bog turtle.

Gila Monster Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Gila Monster?

Gila Monsters are the largest lizards endemic to the United States. It is a sluggish, venomous animal but not a dangerous one, to be precise, and not a threat to human life. The Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectum) and Mexican Beaded Lizard (Heloderma horridum) are the only two venomous lizards in the world.

What class of animal does a Gila Monster belong to?

The Gila Monster belongs to the class Reptilia and family Helodermatidae. The scientific name of Gila Lizard is Heloderma suspectum. Heloderma literally means studded skin in the ancient Greek language. They belong to the order Squamata, the scaled reptiles' largest order.

How many Gila Monsters are there in the world?

An accurate count is not available. According to a recent study, there are somewhere around 450-800 Gila Monsters. Recent studies have revealed a decline in these Gila Monster populations (Heloderma Suspectum) reptiles.

Where does a Gila Monster live?

The Gila Monster lives in scrubland, succulent desert, and oak woodland. They shelter in caves, crevices, and thickets in the Southwestern United States and Mexico. Sonora, Arizona, parts of California, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah.

What is a Gila Monster's habitat?

Though Gila Monster is a desert animal, it prefers to live close to water resources. It was first discovered in Arizona's Gila River basin. Heloderma Suspectum Gila can be seen in the water puddles after a warm summer rain. Their habitat includes humidity supporting microclimate; hence they prefer underground burrows and thickets.

Who do Gila Monsters live with?

Gila Monsters are solitary animals. These reptiles live on their own except during mating. They live with other dessert animals in their habitat preying on one another.

How long does a Gila Monster live?

The Gila Monster (Heloderma Suspectum) lives from 20-30 years in the wild. But in captivity, they live only a few years. Females that have laid eggs get exhausted and become skinny. Brumation, also known as one of the hibernation processes of cold-blooded animals, helps them regulate their body temperature to survive harsh climates.

How do they reproduce?

Gila Monsters lay eggs.  They attain sexual maturity at four years of age. The male makes the first move, and if rejected the female bites the male and chases it away. Otherwise, the pair go into their shelter. A female lays a clutch of about six to thirteen eggs. The incubation period is around four months. The eggs are about 2.5 in(6.3 cm) long and weigh about 40 grams. At birth, a baby Gila is around 6.3 in (16 cm) long. Hatchlings fend for themselves in the absence of parental care to grow.

What is their conservation status?

According to the IUCN Red List, Gila Monster's status is near threatened. With many predators, human encroachment in their habitats, their numbers have reduced.

Gila Monster Fun Facts

What do Gila Monsters look like?

Gila Monster is not a monster but a lizard.

Gila Monsters are large lizards with broad heads and necks and big tails to store fat. The body is covered in beaded scales with colorful patterns and they have wide feet with long sharp claws.

How cute are they?

Gila Monsters walk on their short legs, with the tail above the ground swinging from side to side for balance. Their gait is fun to watch at. They have colorful scales, which makes them beautiful.

How do they communicate?

Much information is not available on how Gila Monsters communicate. But like most reptiles, they come together during the breeding season.

How big is a Gila Monster?

Gila Monsters grow to weigh 4 lb (1.8 kg) and a length including the tail of up to 20 in (50 cm). They are one of the largest lizards in the United States.

How fast can a Gila Monster move?

Gila Monsters move at a maximum speed of 15 mph. Generally, they are very slow but can move swiftly to produce a quick venomous bite if provoked.

How much does a Gila Monster weigh?

The whole bodyweight of adult Gila Monsters is around 4 lb (1.8 kg). At the time of birth, hatchlings are just over six inches. They are the largest species of lizard found in the U.S.

What are their male and female names of the species?

No separate terms are given to this species' male and female counterparts. But a group of Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectum) is called a lounge.

What would you call a baby Gila Monster?

The hatchling of a Gila Monster has no separate name of its own.

What do they eat?

Gila Monster eats young mammals and other reptiles in its habitat. Rabbits, ground squirrels, mice, other smaller lizards, insects, snakes, frogs and eggs of other species, and sometimes even small birds. It can eat almost a third of its body weight in one meal.

Are they poisonous?

The Gila Monsters bite is poisonous. Though their venom is not fatal for humans, many small to adverse side effects are observed, including paralysis and difficulty in breathing, and sometimes convulsions. The venom is poisonous enough to bring down its prey. The lizard has its venom in the glands of its lower jaw, and they chew into the flesh of its prey to deposit the venom into the body.

Would they make a good pet?

Gila Monsters, which are captive bred, are only allowed to be sold and bought as pets. But there are few states which ban them as a pet completely. Having these venomous creatures around requires extra effort and care.

Did you know...

The giant Gila Monster does not chew its food but directly swallows it. They are protected under Amazon law. They shed their skin like other reptiles, but the female sheds all of its skin a fortnight before laying the eggs.

Contact with Gila Monsters

Gila Monsters are one of the largest poisonous lizards in the world. Their venom doesn't kill healthy adult humans, but the bite is painful and has many effects on the body, including paralysis and difficulty in breathing, and sometimes convulsions. As of now, there is no anti-venom dose available for its bite.

Naming the Gila Monster

The species is commonly known as the Gila monster as they are found commonly around the Gila River basin. And because of its large size for a lizard and scaley appearance, and venomous nature, they were called monsters.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other reptiles including sand lizard facts, or Olive Ridley sea turtle.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our gila monster coloring pages.

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