What on Earth December 2017
Can you guess what kind of animal is in this photo? Can you name the adaptation this close-up features?
Click to find out!
Answer: Gila Monster osteoderms
The Gila monster has beadlike scales that are actually osteoderms. Other animals that have osteoderms include alligators, crocodiles, and armadillos. Osteoderms are bony plates that offer animals protection from rivals or predators.
The Gila monster can grow to be up to 2 feet long and 5 pounds, making them the lagest lizards native to the United States. The Gila monster is one of the few venomous lizards that exist. Instead of injecting venom like snakes, Gila monsters latch onto victims and chew, allowing neurotoxins to move through grooves in their teeth and into the open wound. Although a Gila monster bite is painful, there is no record of a human ever dying from the animal's bite. Researchers have used the Gila's venom to help human medicine. A synthetic version of a protein found in the lizard's venom is now used to treat human diabetes.
To see a real Gila monster skeleton, and learn more about animals with adaptations such as osteoderms and venom, visit SKELETONS: Museum of Osteology in Orlando! Do you have a group of students, campers, scouts, etc.? Check out our Education Programs for a hands-on exploration of our collections!