Monday, November 1, 2010
Creature Feature: Gila Monster.
It ate my heart...it a-a-ate my heart...*Shot for Lady Gaga reference.*
Continuing in the vein of orange and black critters, the Gila monster (Heloderma suspectum) is a lizard native to the American southwest. It is a relatively slow-moving lizard that gets two feet long, tops and spends most of its time underground. The Gila does not even eat much - only five to ten times a year in the wild- but feeds mostly on eggs and animals smaller than it is.
And it is venomous.
Gila monsters are one of the two venomous lizards native to North America. Unlike with snakes, the Gila's fangs are located in the lower jaw. The venom is neurotoxic and about as potent as a coral snake's. It contains several potentially fatal compounds and causes some nasty symptoms. Really, the bright colors on this thing are a "stay the EFF away" warning.
Despite the supposed potency of its venom, there are no recorded cases of anyone ever dying from a Gila bite. Like rear-fanged snakes, the Gila has problems delivering venom; it has to be chewed into its prey thoroughly to take any effect at all. Sometimes a Gila will flip over to make its bite more potent. It still hurts like hell, but probably will not kill you. Also, these lizards are crazy slow; one doctor in the Arizona Graphic said this:
"I have never been called to attend a case of Gila monster bite, and I don't want to be. I think a man who is fool enough to get bitten by a Gila monster ought to die. The creature is so sluggish and slow of movement that the victim of its bite is compelled to help largely in order to get bitten."
Unless you happen to be an idiot who has fun poking venomous lizards with sticks, you should be fine. That sounds like a Jackass stunt waiting to happen.