Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mystery Critter Wednesday 15 Solved

Gila Monster

WOW Scooter is back! Nailed it early in the morning too. I really have to start making these harder. Scooter says he googled the strip colors and Gila Monster is what he found. Of course Gaelyn know without having to use the internet for help but it is first come first serve here at MCW! So come on over and pick up your t-shirt Scooter!

The Gila monster (pronounced /ˈhiːlə/, HEE-la), Heloderma suspectum, is a species of venomous lizard native to the southwestern United States and northerwestern Mexican state of Sonora. A heavy, slow-moving lizard, up to 60 centimetres (2.0 ft) long, the Gila monster is the only venomous lizard native to the United States and one of only two known species of venomous lizards in North America, the other being its close relative, the Mexican beaded lizard (H. horridum). Though the Gila monster is venomous, its sluggish nature means that it represents little threat to humans. However, it has earned a fearsome reputation and is sometimes killed by hikers and homeowners despite being protected by state law in Arizona and Nevada.

Venom is produced in modified salivary glands in the Gila monster's lower jaw, unlike snakes, whose venom is produced in the upper jaw. The Gila monster lacks the musculature to forcibly inject the venom; instead, the venom is propelled from the gland to the tooth by chewing. Capillary action brings the venom out of the tooth and into the victim. The teeth are loosely anchored, which allows them to be broken off and replaced throughout life. Gila monsters have been observed to flip over while biting the victim, presumably to aid the flow of the venom into the wound. Because the Gila monster's prey consists mainly of eggs, small animals, and otherwise "helpless" prey, it is thought that the Gila monster's venom evolved for defensive rather than for hunting use. A defensive use would explain the Gila monster's bright warning coloration.

Although the venom is a neurotoxin as toxic as that of a Coral Snake, H. suspectum produces only small amounts. The Gila monster's bite is normally not fatal to adult humans. There are no confirmed reports of fatalities after 1939, and those prior to that year are suspect due to the primitive dangerous "treatments." The Gila monster can bite quickly (especially by swinging its head sideways) and hold on tenaciously and painfully. If bitten, the victim may need to fully submerge the attacking lizard in water to break free from its bite. Symptoms of the bite include excruciating pain, edema, and weakness associated with a rapid drop in blood pressure. More than a dozen peptides and proteins have been isolated from the Gila monster's venom, including hyaluronidase, serotonin, phospholipase A2, and several kallikrein-like glycoproteins responsible for the pain and edema caused by a bite. Four potentially lethal toxins have been isolated from the Gila monster's venom, including horridum venom, which causes hemorrhage in internal organs and exophthalmos (bulging of the eyes), and helothermine, which causes lethargy, partial paralysis of the limbs, and hypothermia in rats. However, the constituents most focused on are the bioactive peptides, including helodermin, helospectin, exendin-3, and exendin-4. Most are similar in form to vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP), which relaxes smooth muscle and regulates water and electrolyte secretion between the small and large intestines. These bioactive peptides are able to bind to VIP receptors in many different human tissues. One of these, helodermin, has been shown to inhibit the growth of lung cancer.


Photograph by Craig Glenn at Busch Gardens Tampa.

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SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

An excellent post and picture my friend. :)What a brute this is. I am please we do not have anything like this here.

You are too good Scot!! Now dont tell me you are going to really wear that T-shirt? :)

Appalachian Lady said...

This reminds me of my trips to Arizona and the Desert Museum. Good information on the Gila Monster. Now, if I ever see one when hiking, I won't be afraid and just keep my distance.

scot said...

Why wouldn't I wear the t-shirt? I have been wearing his hand-me-down underware all my life.

Gaelyn said...

Hey, what's second place prize? No used underware please.