(Reticulated Gila monster)
The Gila (pronounced HEE-la) monster is a venomous, slow-moving heavy-bodied lizard which may grow up to 60 centimetres long and weigh up to two kilograms. Their black bodies are marked with bands or mottled patterns in pink, orange or yellow. It is one of two venomous lizards native to North America.
Its venom is located in glands under its lower teeth and when it bites, this venom is transferred through grooves in the teeth. The Gila monster has a very strong jaw and it will hold the prey in its grip for several seconds to deliver the most amount of venom but given it eats mainly eggs or very small animals, it is thought the venom evolved for defence rather than capturing prey. A Gila monster bite is painful to humans, but it is not considered deadly - no one has ever died from a bite. Gila monsters are immune to their own venom.
They may spend more than 95 percent of their lives in underground burrows, emerging only to feed and occasionally to bask in the desert sun. They can store fat in their oversized tails and are able to survive on 4-5 meals a year.
Gila monsters are generally found in shrubland, desert and woodland areas of northern Mexico and south-western United States.
Gila Monsters are carnivores with reptile and bird eggs their preferred diet. They have a strong sense of smell which they use to find eggs and will often dig to locate their food. They will also eat small animals including insects, frogs and other lizards.
Females lay a clutch of 2-15 eggs which she buries to incubate. These eggs remain underground where they can take up to a year to hatch. When born, the baby Gila monsters are around 15 centimetres long and have full venom glands. Juveniles can consume over 50% of their body weight in one meal.