These lizards are desert-living, retiring animals from Central
America, with warning coloration to discourage attackers. The swollen
tail is a fat store for lean times - a frequent adaptation in desert-living
species. The venom is potent, but only effective following a continued
" scrunching " by the lizard's back teeth.
Gila monsters live a very long time - twenty, thirty years are
easily possible and, once they mature, the pink or yellow markings
do not change and the animal can be individually identified in perpetuity.
Much work has gone into understanding breeding behaviour and,
in 1991, one female laid a clutch of six eggs. All of these hatched
- a remarkable achievement - and the young did very well.
This follows on from the highlight of 1989 which was the hatching
of four Reticulated Gila monsters. For this we qualified for the
Federation of Zoological Gardens of Great Britain and Ireland, First
Breeding in Captivity award (although in the end we had to share
it with London Zoo who hatched two young ones at about the same
time). These hatchings represent many years of work by the Zoological
Society of Glasgow and the West of Scotland.
Humans shed their skin, but not all at once, and so too do all
lizards, but unlike human's a lizard's skin does not stretch as
the animal grows . This means a lizard has to get rid of its skin
of hard scales and grow another one. This is done several times
each year, and some lizards will shed also in the breeding season
replacing their old skin with brightly coloured skin to attract
of Dragons in Scotland