List of Lizards
© Miroslav Hlavko/Shutterstock.com To many people, lizards and turtles are bizarre-looking creatures. Many lizards are considered menacing because of their seemingly expressionless faces combined with their claws and teeth, whereas turtles are thought of as slow-moving, docile creatures. Most lizards, in reality, are harmless to humans, as are most turtles; however, there are certain members of both groups that can kill, maim, make ill, or inflict at least mild levels of pain on their hapless human victims. Some lizards are, in fact, venomous, and some are quite aggressive.
7Gila monster (Heloderma suspectum)
Richard Weymouth Brooks/Photo Researchers The Gila monster (Heloderma suspectum) was named for the Gila River Basin and occurs in parts of the U.S. states of Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico and the Mexican states of Sonora and Sinaloa. It grows to about 50 cm (about 20 inches), is stout-bodied with black and pink blotches or bands, and has beadlike scales. They are the largest lizards in the United States.
During warm weather the Gila monster feeds at night on small mammals, birds, and eggs. Fat stored in the tail and abdomen at this time is utilized during the winter months. The large head and muscular jaws of the Gila monster yield a strong bite that is held while venom seeps into the wound. Many teeth have two grooves that conduct the venom, a nerve poison, from glands in the lower jaw. Bites, as well as fatalities, to humans are rare, and the last known report of a death from Gila monster bite occurred in 1939.
6Snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina and Macrochelys temminckii)
Walter Dawn Snapping turtles are freshwater turtles (family Chelydridae) named for their method of biting that are noted for their large size and aggressive nature. Snapping turtles are found throughout in North America east of the Rocky Mountains, as well as in pockets from Mexico and Central America to Ecuador. They are tan to black in color and have a rough upper shell, a small cross-shaped lower shell, a long tail, and a large head with hooked jaws.
The common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentine) is often found buried in mud in shallow water. It is omnivorous, although it prefers animal prey. It is usually unaggressive in the water; however, it may lunge and snap while on land. The alligator snapping turtle, Macrochelys (or sometimes Macroclemys) temminckii, is the largest freshwater turtle in the United States. It is found in southern and central regions and is a sedentary turtle with three prominent longitudinal ridges on the upper shell. They can grow to a shell length of about 40—70 cm (16—28 inches), and their weight ranges from about 18 to 70 kg (40 to 155 pounds) with a record of about 100 kg! The alligator snapping turtle has a wormlike appendage on the floor of its mouth. It often lies quietly on the bottom, mouth open, and lures fishes within reach by means of this structure. It also eats plants. Fossil snapping turtles have been found in Miocene deposits in Europe and North America.
5Mexican beaded lizard (Heloderma horridum )
© fivespots/Fotolia A closely related species, the Mexican beaded lizard (H. horridum), is slightly larger (to 80 cm [about 32 inches]) and darker than the Gila monster but otherwise similar in appearance. The species inhabits much of the Pacific coast of Mexico from the border between the states of Sinaloa and Sonora south to Mexico’s border with Guatemala.
The Mexican beaded lizard is similar to the Gila monster in habit. It relies on stored fats to help it survive the winter and it also bites its enemies by locking its jaws on its prey while its grooved teeth funnel nerve poison into the wound of its victim. Its bite is painful; however, no confirmed human fatalities associated with this species have been reported.
The species is part of the illegal international trade in pets, and some Mexican beaded lizards are sold to pet distributors in the United States, Europe, and Japan.
4The Iguanas (subfamily Iguaninae)
© Miroslav Hlavko/Shutterstock.com The best-known species of iguana is the common, or green, iguana (Iguana iguana), which occurs from Mexico southward to Brazil. Males of this species reach a maximum length of over 2 meters (6.6 feet) and 6 kg (13.2 pounds). It is often seen basking in the sun on the branches of trees overhanging water, into which it will plunge if disturbed. The common iguana is green with dark bands that form rings on the tail; females are grayish green and about half the weight of males. Other genera include the West Indian iguana (Cyclura) and the desert iguana (Dipsosaurus) of the southwestern United States and Mexico. Two genera inhabit the Galapagos Islands: the marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus) and a terrestrial form (Conolophus). The latter genus includes the pink iguana (C. rosada), which inhabits the slopes of Wolf Volcano on Isabela (Albemarle) Island.
Iguanas possess atrophied venom glands that produce a weak harmless venom, and they are common pets to reptile collectors. Nevertheless, iguanas possess dozens of sharp serrated teeth. Although bites are relatively uncommon, they can produce serious injuries to faces, fingers, wrists, and ankles. Some of the warning signs of an impending strike by an iguana include standing on all fours, drawing in a deep breath to make the body appear larger, the lowering of the animal’s dewlap (the skin flap under its chin). Some iguanas, however, have been known to strike without warning.
3Tree crocodile, or Crocodile monitor (Varanus salvadorii)
Cursed Senses—iStockphoto/Thinkstock Crocodile monitors are found on the island of New Guinea. Most prefer the island’s lowland environments near the coast, some have been observed living in mountainous environments up to 650 meters (about 2, 100 feet) in elevation. They are primarily colored black, with specks of green, yellow, or white. Crocodile monitors weigh up to 90 kg (nearly 200 pounds). Although the Komodo dragon (V. komodoensis) is larger by weight, fully grown crocodile monitors are longer, reach up to 5 meters (about 16 feet) in length from snout to tail.
Crocodile monitors are sometimes hunted for their meat and their skin, which is made into clothing and drumheads. Crocodile monitors are known for being very aggressive, and thus it is considered risky to hunt them, so most harvesting results from capturing them in traps meant for other animals.