Geographical Range Western Mexico
Habitat Dry forests, scrublands, woodlands
Scientific Name Heloderma horridum horridum
Conservation Status Threatened

Does this lizard wear beads? Well, sort of: Its head and back are covered with bead-like scales. The Mexican beaded lizard and its cousin, the gila monster, are the only two lizard species that have this beady appearance. And they have another claim to fame: They're the only two species of venomous lizard in the world.

The Mexican beaded lizard comes in four subspecies (types), and each looks a bit different. The horridum subspecies has a dark background with yellow markings, which can be extensive or almost non-existent. The Mexican beaded lizard can grow quite large -- over three feet in length, including the tail. And speaking of that tail, it's used for fat storage, so it can grow quite plump when the lizard has been stocking up on food.

The Mexican beaded lizard is carnivorous, meaning it eats meat. The menu is broad, featuring young rabbits and rodents, birds, lizards, frogs, eggs (snake, lizard and bird), insects, earthworms and carrion (dead meat). While beaded lizards find much of their prey on the ground surface, sometimes they go that "extra mile" to find a tasty morsel: The lizards use their powerful limbs to dig into the ground or climb trees in search of more elusive prey.

Beaded lizards eat just a few large meals seasonally, which means they don't have to spend a lot of time foraging. In fact, they spend more than 95% of their time hidden in shelters, like rocky crevices or burrows. They come out to forage when temperatures are "just right" (at night during the hotter months, or during the day during the cooler months).

Courtship and mating happen in September and October (springtime in the Southern Hemisphere). Males engage in ritual combat that may last several hours; the victor has the privilege of mating with the female. The female lays her eggs -- anywhere from two to 22 -- between October and December, and they hatch the following June or July.

Mexican beaded lizards are in trouble in the wild. Their greatest threat is habitat loss due to human development. They also suffer from illegal collection for the pet trade. You can help: Don't buy Mexican beaded lizards.

Did You Know?

Unlike venomous snakes, beaded lizards can't forcefully eject the toxin from their venom glands; instead, they have to chew the venom into their victim. Ouch!