The Gila monster’s teeth are rather loosely anchored and are replaced throughout the life of this reptile. Gila monster venom is used primarily as a defense mechanism. Gila monster bites result in immediate pain which becomes more severe quickly. Its venom is not fatal to a healthy adult human, but is a great deterrent to a would-be predator. The venom of the Gila monster has been studied and used within human medicines such as a diabetes 2 drug and as an aid for conditions such as memory loss from Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and ADHD.
Habitat: Shrubland, forest and deserts in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico.
Diet in the Wild: Bird eggs, young birds, rodents, smaller lizards, frogs and insects
Diet at Caldwell Zoo: Mice and raw eggs
Status: Near threatened, population decreasing.
Threats: Habitat fragmentation and loss, illegal removal by commercial and private collectors
Gila monster venom, which is a neurotoxin, is produced in venom glands in the lizard's lower jaw and directed into the wound from a bite by grooves in the lizard’s teeth.
The Gila monster’s large tail is used to store fat. Gila monsters will burn the fat in their tails for energy when food is hard to come by, and can survive off this reservoir for months.