Gila Monster | The Gila Monster is a stout-bodied lizard that grows 18 to 24 inches in length. It has black, orange, pink or yellow broken blotches, bars and spots, with bands extending onto its blunt tail. Its face is black, and it has small, bead-like scales across its back. It is named for the Gila River Basin of the southwestern United States. The gila monster is found roaming through a range of habitats throughout the drier regions of central America. Gila monsters tend to inhabit areas that are more sheltered such as shrublands, woodlands, forests and semi-deserts.
In the same way that a camel's hump, the tail of the gila monster acts as a fat storage facility in order to help the gila monster to survive more successfully in such arid conditions. When the gila monster eats and therefore replenishes its fat supply, the tail of the gila monster swells in size and becomes smaller again as its body uses up the fat. The gila monster has short powerful legs, and long claws which it mainly uses for digging. Gila monsters spend nearly all of their time in burrows underground, either ones they have dug themselves or more likely, those stolen from other animals.
The gila monster is one of only two venomousz liard species that are found in North America. The gila monster has venom glands below its teeth on the bottom jaw which is released when the gila monster bites its prey. The gila monster then waits while its venom kills the animal, before finally eating it. The gila monster is a carnivorous animal and therefore has a purely animal-based diet. Bird and reptile eggs make up the majority of the gila monster's diet, along with insects, frogs, small mammals and reptiles, including smaller lizards.
Despite its large size, the gila monster is a fairly slow-moving animal meaning that it is preyed upon by a number of predators in its natural environment. Coyotes and humans (who often kill the gila monster claiming self-defence), are the main predators of the gila monster along with birds of prey and small ground-dwelling animals that hunts the eggs of the gila monster. After mating, the female gila monster lays between 2 and 15 eggs which she buries underground. The incubation period for the gila monster eggs is one of the longest of all reptiles, as they can take up to a year to hatch.