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What is a Beaded Lizard?

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  • Written By: J.Gunsch
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 27 February 2017
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A beaded lizard is a type of reptile whose scientific name is Heloderma horridum. The Latin "Heloderma" means studded skin, hence the common name “beaded.” The beaded lizard is closely related to the gila monster and these two reptiles are the only known poisonous lizards in the world.

The beaded lizard grows to about 13-18 inches (32.5-45cm) in length and weighs around 5 pounds (2.3kg). It has a black body with yellow or white spots along its back. The bumpy skin along with the contrast of the spots and stripes makes the lizard appear to have beads. The beaded lizard can live upwards of thirty years.

The beaded lizard is found in the Southwestern United States, Mexico and Guatemala. Its habitat ranges from desert scrub to dense tropical woodlands and it spends most of its life burrowing underground. The beaded lizard’s diet consists of birds, eggs, insects, small mammals and other small reptiles.

Although venomous, the beaded lizard is not a significant danger to humans because of the way that it injects its venom. The beaded lizard uses its poison to kill its prey and does so by chewing on it and slowly releasing the venom. A person would probably be able to remove the biting reptile before the poison entered the body at lethal amounts. However no anti-venom for the beaded lizard exists, so care should always be taken not to be bitten by one.

Due to habitat destruction, mainly from slash and burn agriculture the beaded lizard is considered to be a threatened species. In addition, over collection of the species for sale as exotic pets is a contributing factor to its threatened status. Like all organisms the beaded lizard is an integral part of the ecosystems it inhabits. People should avoid acquiring wild beaded lizards as pets to protect and conserve the species.

Because they are venomous, beaded lizards should not be kept by inexperienced handlers. In the United States, most states and cities require special permits to keep a beaded lizard in captivity if it is allowed at all.

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