The Beaded Lizards Of Central Australia
If you have seen the distinctive little spotted breed of lizards known as the Mexican Beaded Lizard, you may have assumed that it was simply a harmless lizard. But that’s not the case. These little reptiles are often venomous! Did you know that there are more than 200 documented snakebites caused by these creatures? Be careful. Here is what you need to know about these reptiles.
The Mexican Beaded Lizard (or Mexican beaded lizard as it is more commonly known) is listed as an endangered species in its native habitat. It is considered critically imperiled and is considered an endangered marine ecosystem. While no formal assessment has been made, experts believe the numbers of this particular lizard may have decreased by as much as thirty percent since the 1970s. Unfortunately, these numbers have since skyrocketed, largely due to capture and sale of the animals for ornamental purposes. When threatened, Mexican heloderma horridum hisses and opens its mouth, emitting poisonous smoke that is highly lethal to anything that comes within range.
It is not uncommon for these lizards to prey on small mammals such as rats, mice, voles, shrews, gerbils, chipmunks, and shrews. They also feed on birds, such as cockatiels, herons, and other birds of prey. Their population appears to be stable although fluctuating, and migratory paths have been observed. They are nocturnal and feed at night. They are nocturnal predators, hunting mostly late in the evening when the heat of the day is fading. There are also reports of these animals chasing smaller birds such as starlings, grosbeaks, and chickadees but they are nocturnal hunters.
The Mexican beaded lizard grows to about seven to nine inches in length, with a tail length reaching three to four feet. They have gray to black and white colored legs and bodies. They are covered from head to toe in dark skin, with some species having “mulic” decals on their hind limbs and heads. Some specimens have “mulic” teeth which appear to lack any teeth. They have powerful jaws, which they use to catch small prey.
Believed to be a subspecies of the greater Criollo beaded lizard, these lizards are also called Gila monsters. Gila monsters were first described by H. Ellis in 1833. They are not related to any other known lizard species. Believed to have a lifespan of between two and five years, Mexican beaded lizards can live up to three decades.
If you have spotted one of these lizards, then you know that it is a relatively large sized predator, with a head nearly double that of its body, and a tail that are nearly five times that length. Its coloration may vary between gray and black, although it may also appear reddish or orange in certain species. It has two distinguishable physical characteristics: a broad, rounded crest that jut out from its back; and a large, pointed belly which are marked with a series of black spots.
On the lower half of its back, there are two rows of extremely visible and distinct “teeth” that differ in shape and size between the two species. These teeth are clearly visible in the flesh, as the head moves close to the ground. In addition, there are small claws on each of the incisors that are used to grasp and rip apart prey. The remaining two subspecies in the genus Horridum do not have visible teeth but rather have soft spines instead.
One other peculiar feature of this beaded lizard is the way in which it stores and retrieves its food. Rather than using its mouth to munch on vegetation, it actually grabs its prey by biting it on the lower side of its head. This allows the beaded lizard to bring its teeth and mouth close together in one position. Then, rather than just ripping the prey’s flesh away, the beaded lizard manipulates it into a pulp with its teeth. This process seals the blood in its meat, preventing it from drying out, and from spoiling.