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The Gila Monster

Characteristics

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Characteristics of Gila Monsters

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The skin of the Gila monster is often called beadlike. It is made up of rounded raised scales. The Gila is a stout-bodied lizard that grows 18 to 24 inches in length. The legs of the lizard are rather short, and set far apart from eachother. The curved claws on the feet are used to help dig. Gila monsters dig burrows to live in, protect themselves, or dig into other animal's burrows for food. The tongue of the Gila monster is snake-like. These lizards ten to flick out their forked tongue as they crawl to help them pick up scents. They have a large sausage-shaped tail which holds fat to help keep them warm in the winter while they hibernate. It's head is large, and it has wide jaws containing sharp teeth and venom gland in the lower jaw. They are decorativly colored by black, orange, pink or yellow broken blotches, bars, and spots with bands extending onto its blunt tail. These colors ten to warm other animals off, especially since they are poisinous.

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Most of the Gila monster's teeth have two grooves that conduct the venom, a nerve toxin, from glands in the lower jaw. The toxin is not injected like that of the snake, but flows into the wound as the lizard chews on it's victim. While the bite can overpower predators and prey, it is rarely fatal to humans.