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Gila Monster Heloderma suspectum

Gila Monsters are lizards with a poisonous bite. They move slowly and spend most of the day in a self-dug hole. They may rest for days or weeks emerging almost exclusively at night. Prey is detected by a highly developed sense of smell and taste. The tail is used as a store of fat and is often swollen but becomes reduced after any period of fasting.

Found: South-west America and Mexico

Habitat: Desert scrubland, rocky regions

Status: Numbers decreasing

Length: Up to 0.5m

Incubation: 120 days

No. of Young: 3-13 eggs/clutch

Food in wild: Small mammals, birds, frogs, insects, carrion, reptile & bird eggs

Lifespan: 25 years

Gilas Aid Research into Diabetes

The Gila lizard is another creature assisting the cause of human medicine.
The Gila hails from Arizona, but are popular zoo exhibits, being spectacularly eye-catching with their:

  • red and black or
  • yellow and black
pigmentation. Glasgow Zoopark is one of the places to breed them regularly in Europe. The Gila's venom contains the compound "Exendin" which is being turned into a new drug to fight Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is suffered by approximately 1.2 million people in Britain.

Exendin is similar to a natural hormone called GLP1 and has the power to control the secretion of the body's own insulin. It also influences the speed the stomach empties, and regulates appetite.

Doctors hope it will reduce the death rate from the complications of diabetes, which include strokes and heart attacks.