This lumbering desert lizard has an agonizingly painful bite laced with powerful venom. It seizes creatures in its vice-like jaws, delivers a dose of poisonous saliva, then gulps down its pulverized and paralyzed victims - head first and whole.
Bite It: Crushing jaws are equipped with strong muscles lined with long, sharp teeth. Two glands at the back of the lower jaw produce the monster’s venom.
Fatty: The Gila monster’s tail is used to store fat. When the monster hibernates during cold weather, it burns up this fat instead of eating.
That’s a Mouthful!
The desert is such a tough place to live even the Gila monster can barely stand it. Gila monsters spend most of their lives in burrows, avoiding the extreme heat in summer and cold temperatures in winter. They feast in the spring when there are lots of small animals scurrying about. Some are so small (right) it only takes one gulp!
Strong Suit: Bony, bead-like scales cover this lizard like armor. They make a tough exterior and reduce the loss of water in the dry desert air.
Blending In: The color patterns of the Gila monster are an effective camouflage in the hard-edged shadows and light of the desert, helping the monster lie in wait for prey.
- Tasting the air repeatedly with its flicking forked tongue, a Gila monster relentlessly tracks down a small snake.
- With one bite, the monster grabs the snake’s neck in its jaws, puncturing holes and crunching bones. Venom flows up its grooved lower teeth and floods the wound.
- Stricken by shock and paralyzing pain, the snake can do nothing to prevent the Gila monster’s claws from shoving the snake into position to swallow it head first.