It’s another week and another weird animal here at weird biology dot com, and in this week’s installment things are going to get a little… monstrous. In the American Southwest, the weather ranges from 50 to 120F, and sometimes it doesn’t rain for months. (Yes, humans live here anyway. Go figure.) A hard place to live, sure. But a perfect breeding ground for these monsters of survival. (Monsters, get it?) It’s-
And it’s A REAL-LIFE KAIJU. (kind of.)
The Gila Monster is the largest lizard native to North America, reaching up to two feet long and weighing up to 5 pounds. That’s 0.001524390243902439% of Godzilla! The Gila Monster lives in burrows underground for most of its life, coming out only very rarely to feed. (By “very rarely”, I mean 5-10 times a year. A YEAR. Trendy diet trash magazines want to know their secrets.)
But when they do go out on the town, ho boy is it an event. A rampage, if you will. A single Gila Monster may hork down up to a third of its own body weight in a single sitting. Then they wiggle right back into their dank burrows and go to sleep for a few months until an opportunity to feed presents itself once more. (Trendy diet trash magazines no longer want to know their secrets.)
Gila Monsters will eat… pretty much anything, actually, Although they prefer soft foods that can’t fight back. Things like eggs, baby animals, and stuff that’s already dead. (Mostly babies, though. Especially rabbits and mice. They LOVE those little guys, ha ha!) Despite them being lazy baby-eaters, very few creatures are willing to mess with the Gila Monster because 1: they’re giant freaking lizards, come on and 2: they’re incredibly venomous.
In fact, their venom is a potent neurotoxin as powerful as that of the coral snake! However, the lizards inject very little of this venom in their bite, and there are no recorded cases of one ever actually killing a human. Though apparently it does completely ruin your day. (If you asked a Gila Monster about this, they would lie. Gila Monster has killed many humans, so many!) We do, however, have multiple first-hand accounts of Gila Monsters just kind of latching onto human fingers and not letting go. This really freaked out early settlers, as you can probably imagine.
SWEET HEAVENS TO BETSY WHAT IN TARNATION IS THAT THING? MA, GET THE SHOVEL.
The Gila Monster is nothing if not tenacious! Probably because it has nothing else to do with its day. (Because it’s a freaking lizard.) Sometimes they bite so stubbornly that they have to be completely submerged in water in order to be made to let go. They’re that stubborn. Water is in pretty short supply in the desert though, so I’m assuming this meant at least one Gila-nipped cowpoke had to get back on his horse and make the trek of shame back to the nearest town with a giant lizard clamped onto his hand like a particularly stubborn hangnail. (Look, it’s probably not true but let me imagine, alright?)
While they are still a regular sight in their desert homes, these real-life Kaiju are facing an uncertain future. Officially listed as Threatened, the Gila Monster’s main danger is habitat loss as desert sands are turned into Walmart parking lots. Also, humans often kill them because they’re scaaawy. So while it is now a protected species, obviously education about them needs to happen. Be sure to tell all your friends about the monstrous lizards of the Southwest, how amazing they are, and how you should absolutely not hit them with a shovel. Thank you.
(Just don’t think about those baby mice.)
1. BLMUtah, Flickr
2. Soulsurvivor08, Flickr
3. Jeff Servoss, Wikimedia Commons