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What is a Beaded Lizard?

By J.Gunsch
Updated May 21, 2024
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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.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Beaded Lizard and where can it be found?

The Beaded Lizard (Heloderma horridum) is one of only two venomous lizards in the world, the other being its close relative, the Gila Monster. It is native to Mexico and southern Guatemala, inhabiting tropical deciduous forests, thorn scrub, and pine-oak woodlands. This lizard is known for its distinctive bead-like scales and venomous bite.

How does the Beaded Lizard use its venom?

The Beaded Lizard utilizes its venom primarily for defense and to subdue prey. Unlike snakes that inject venom through hollow fangs, the Beaded Lizard releases venom from glands in its lower jaw, which flows into the victim through grooves in the lizard's teeth. The venom contains enzymes and peptides that can cause pain and swelling in humans but is rarely fatal.

What does the Beaded Lizard eat?

Beaded Lizards are carnivorous, feeding on a variety of small animals such as birds, mammals, eggs, and other reptiles. They are particularly adept at raiding nests for eggs, which they swallow whole. Their slow metabolism allows them to survive on relatively few but large meals, sometimes only eating five to ten times a year.

Is the Beaded Lizard endangered?

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Beaded Lizard is listed as Near Threatened. Habitat loss due to agricultural expansion and urban development, as well as illegal pet trade, are the primary threats to their survival. Conservation efforts are in place to protect their natural habitats and regulate trade.

How do Beaded Lizards reproduce?

Beaded Lizards are oviparous, meaning they lay eggs. Mating typically occurs in the spring, and females lay clutches of 2 to 30 eggs in the summer or early fall. The eggs incubate for several months, often hatching in the spring. The young are independent from birth and receive no parental care.

Can Beaded Lizards be kept as pets?

While it is legal to own Beaded Lizards in some areas, they are not recommended for casual pet owners due to their venomous nature and specialized care requirements. Prospective owners should have experience with exotic reptiles and must ensure they can provide a proper environment. Additionally, one should verify local laws and consider the ethical implications of keeping a wild animal as a pet.

AllThingsNature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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