Gila Monster

Heloderma suspectum

A Lizard with Bite

The Gila monster is the only venomous lizard in the U.S., and one of the few in the entire world. These lizards are dark black with orange blotches. Native to the deserts of the Southwest, these lizards are named for Arizona’s Gila River Basin where they were first discovered.

About the Species

Gila monster venom not only helps to subdue prey and defend against predators, but may also potentially help those with diabetes.

The Gila monster had a very powerful bite and venomous saliva. Grooves in the teeth help direct the flow of saliva into the flesh, and the lizard may continue to chew to try to get the venom further into the victim's flesh. Although the bite is very painful, there is no antivenom, as there have been no reported deaths in the U.S. The venom of the Gila monster seems to be more of a defense than a weapon, however. Most of the Gila monster's diet consists of eggs or animals small enough that they would be killed by the powerful bite alone. The venom from the Gila monster is being used for medicinal research. Scientists have studied the proteins that make up the venom in order to create new medication for Type 2 diabetes patients.

Words From the Experts

Quotes

The Gila monster is one of only two species of lizard in the world that has venom that is considered medically significant.

Heather

Did You Know?

Gila monsters are able to go months between meals, and can eat 1/3 of their body weight at one time.

Facts

Origin

Southwest United States and northwest New Mexico

Habitat

Desert and semi desert

Size

Approximately 2 feet long, 3-5 pounds

Diet

Eggs, carrion, small mammals, reptiles, invertebrates

Predators

Larger animals

Natural Defenses

Venomous saliva

Reproduction

Lays clutches of up to 12 eggs in a depression dug in the soil

Status

Near threatened

Life Expectancy

20 years

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