The belled lizard looks almost like a small scaled lizard with its large, prehensile tail. It has three toes, but no wings, and has gray or brown fur. It is named the Mexican Beaded Lizard because of its widespread distribution in moist, sandy soils along the Mexico border. These lizard species occur in different color varieties and can be found in many varieties of patterns. They are common in dry, sandy areas near rivers, creeks, and even in roadside ditches. They are also believed to be widespread in the deserts of central Mexico.
These lizards prefer wooded areas for their nests, but tend to eat other animals, including birds and snakes. They lay their eggs in burrows or under rocks in well-drained soil. Adult female Mexican beaded lizard specimens can grow to around 76 inches in length and weigh between 1.4 and 2.3 pounds. Male lizards are slightly larger, reaching 90 inches and weighing between 4.5 pounds.
Between June and August, this beaded lizard specie migrates south from the south of Mexico to the warmer regions of Central America and the Caribbean. During this time, they are highly prone to attack by birds and other prey animals. This is one of only two species to prey upon birds in the area. A similar-sized beaded lizard was recently identified in the Guadalupe Mountains of Mexico as the first new Mexican record since 1820. This species has also been nicknamed “zilla” due to its ten foot long (four foot and one inch tall) snakes.
Since this lizard is venomous, it is critically important to have an experienced owner for any human interaction with these beautiful lizards. In captivity, they tend to become shy, but when threatened they strike with deadly force! Excessive handling or injury to Mexican beaded lizard specimens may lead to death, so any potential owner should carefully consider this aspect before bringing this or any other exotic pet into his or her life.
Both species of this beautiful lizard have distinctive patterns on their tail, but the Mexican beaded lizard has a very distinctive pattern on its head: the “mullet”. On the suspectum, the pattern is closer, but the difference is highly evident when the two lizards are side-by-side. Unfortunately, there is no way to tell which specie a lizard belongs to by looking at its genitalia. Both types have spines on their hind limbs that are clearly visible. Their teeth are also distinct, though the Mexican beaded lizard’s teeth are longer than the suspectum’s.
Unlike the suspectum, the Mexican beaded lizard does not have a thick soft tail. The choker (or “crown” as it is known in scientific jargon) appears on the suspectum and the lower part of its tail, but does not appear on the head or tail. The most likely place to find a choker on a Mexican beaded lizard is between the mule’s tail and the neck: as the choker lengthens, the lizard shifts to a different tail shape.
All three lizards belong to the family called Cheloidaceae, which includes the more familiar slipper, rocker, snowshoe, lizard and mouse lizards. All three have been recorded killing small animals such as hares and rodents, but the beaded lizard usually preys exclusively on larger mammals including humans. However, it has been recorded killing greenbacks and lemurs, and it was even rumored to kill a mountain goat when it was accidentally trapped outside a zoo!
Unfortunately, the Mexican beaded lizard suffers from severe prey and dietary loss. It is considered endangered in many parts of its native range, including portions of Chiapas and Riviera Nayarit. It is believed that these American snakes may also be threatened in other parts of Mexico and Central America by increasing numbers of long-tailed (ento-males or mexican beaded lizard) and swart-tipped (helodermatidae heloderma) rats that have been introduced to the wild in recent years. Raccoons, too, are reported to prey on the species in certain areas.