The scientific name, Heloderma, is derived from the Greek words "helos" and "derma" and simply means "studded skin." The species name, suspectum, was given because an early biologist suspected the animal to be poisonous based on the grooved teeth. And indeed, the Gila Monster is one of only 2 venomous lizards in the world, the other being the Mexican Beaded Lizard.
Gila Monsters are hatched from eggs. They are America's largest lizard, usually attaining a length of 16 to 20 inches. (The record is 22 1/2 inches.) They are also the slowest moving lizard in the country making them easy victims for passing automobiles or mean natured humans. They have few natural predators.
This specimen was born at the San Diego Zoo in California. Gila Monsters in captivity can live for 20 to 30 years. Because of their slow nature, Gila Monsters usually feed on baby mammals, birds or animal eggs. "Mollie" the gila monster eats small rats here at the Rattlesnake Museum.