Beaded Lizards – A Primer on Their Care


Advertisement


Advertisement

The Mexican beaded lizard (HELODORPHA ORNOTICIA) is a unique species of reptile in the gecko family Homysclerosidae, one of two species of giant poisonous beaded lizards native to Mexico and southwestern Guatemala. In the United States this lizard is recognized as the Cerro Grantero. The Mexican beaded lizard has a tail that appears to be an iridescent strip or bead when it is fully mature, which can grow to lengths of nearly two feet. The Mexican beaded lizard has a head with a brown colored v-shaped marking on the snout, a black colored chest, white belly, and grayish blue legs.

Beaded Lizard

This lizard resides in areas of high human population, such as urban and suburban areas, which are high sites for prey capture and for building nests. This lizard’s are more than two feet long and up to five inches long, with tail lengths up to three and a half feet. Because of their ability to produce self-defense toxins and their ability to lure prey this lizard has become an icon of reptile conservation. This is largely due to their relatively slow reproductive rate (one baby per year), their ability to survive habitat loss and to adapt to new environmental stresses such as car exhaust fumes, smoke, pesticides, and flooding.

Only two types of lizards live in the United States and they are both threatened in certain areas of their native habitat. The most threatened of these species is the Northern Cheyenne beaded lizard, with over half of its original habitat in the states of Wyoming, Minnesota, and North Dakota. A related species, the Mexican Mountain Green lizard, also has less than half its original territory. It is protected in certain southwestern corner species habitat in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. In addition, two other threatened species are the Mexican spotted lizard and the Mexican tall lizard.

The third endangered species is the Mexican beaded lizard, also known as the Mexican heloderma horridum. The most recent estimates place this animal at least ten to twelve years old, though most likely much older since no specimens are currently available. Little is known about this animal since it is so small (between one and three inches in length) and no details regarding its diet or life cycle have been collected. The few descriptions that have been printed on the Mexican heloderma Horridum Conservation List include the following: “A medium sized vivarium-ranging from eight to ten inches in length with a tail length up to three and a half inches”.

The second subspecies present in this study include the following: the red-faced beaded lizard, the black-toed beaded lizard, the albino velvet ochid, the black-masked beaded lizard, the white-masked beaded lizard, the yellow-masked ochid, the green Masked lizard, the desert ochid, and the red-hooded lizard. Based on the description of the holotype (the only complete specimen) of the Mexican heloderma, there are four subspecies recognized. The three subspecies differ primarily in their coat color, size of the head, and the number and sizes of paired scales, which affect the animal’s ability to prey. Also, due to genetic differences, there are significant population level differences within each subspecies.

The first subspecies in this study is the red-faced beaded lizard. This species is widespread in south central Mexico including all of Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras. It has become quite popular as a pet because it is an efficient predator of birds and other small reptiles. Though it is rare in the wild, it is considered to be a widespread breeder. It is also believed to be common in the southwestern United States. One of its subspecies, the purple-eyed and white-fronted beaded lizard was imported from Mexico and is now believed to be rarer than the red-faced variety.

The last subspecies in this study is the black-toed beaded lizard, which is the widest species in this study. It has an orange-red color down the back and has a white band around its head. Its name came from the black spots that run along its back and neck. It is found in the southern part of Mexico including all of Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras. In fact, it is so common that it has been declared the first species protected by the state of California. Though it is not nearly as common in the United States, it is still popular as a collector’s item.

This study has provided a lot of insight into the life of these lizards, allowing scientists to better identify with them and know where they come from. Because the study focused on two of the most common lizard species found in Mexico, it can help us better protect them and their habitats. They are threatened with extinction, so any study of them helps us to understand what steps need to be taken to save them. Studying the Mexican beaded lizard, provides new insights into this interesting and beautiful creature, enabling us to enjoy their beauty and learn more about them.

SHARE


Advertisement