Digital Dimdima
-By Rashmi Menon
Independence Day
Lake Tahoe
Hola Amigos!
Gila Monsters
The Petrified Forest

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Gila Monsters

So, Los ninos and las ninas…are you ready to take another trip into the wild desert with me? This is not a journey for the weak of heart. We'll be meeting a monster face-to-face today! For those of you who think that monsters are only the products of flighty imaginations, I have some news for you. Monsters do exist.
Some 50 million years ago, much before you or I were born, venomous lizards roamed the earth. Eventually most of them perished and became extinct. There are, however, two species of poisonous lizards still roaming around our planet. One of them lives right here in Arizona.
Say "hello" to the Heloderma suspectum, the "sun-skinned" reptile. Arizonians refer to this creature as the Gila Monster. Although Gila Monsters can be found in most of the southwestern states including Nevada, Utah and California, they derive their name from the Gila River basin in Arizona, where they are most commonly found.

Gila Monsters are usually pink with yellow or black spots/bands. The skin of the Gila Monster is made up of round, raised bead-like scales. If these scales form a stud like pattern, the subspecies is known as the Reticulated Gila Monster. If the scales form a continuous line across the back, the subspecies is known as the Banded Gila Monster. It is difficult to tell one subspecies from the other among baby lizards. Scale patterns emerge as the lizards mature. Gila Monsters eat a variety of desert animals and birds. They seem to love eating eggs. They immobilize their prey by biting and injecting venom into it. The high heat of the desert, and the venom, combine with their diet of rotting flesh to form foul smelling digestive gases in these reptiles. A foul and fetid breath seems to accompany them wherever they go. Ancient travellers and Native Americans (Red Indians) must have gotten the idea of fire-breathing dragons after coming across these creatures!
These lizards move very slowly and so they do not pose a high risk to humans. Although myths and legends abound in the desert about the fatalities caused by monster bites, there is no evidence to prove that humans have died after being bitten by them. Bleeding, nausea and vomiting are the common reactions to a monster bite.
In the wild, Gila Monsters grow to a length of about 20 inches and they often live to be 25 or 30 years old. Since most of their lives are spent underground, it is a rare privilege to see a Gila Monster in the wild. They are hunted by collectors and other desert predators like rattlesnakes. Gila Monsters are protected by law in the state of Arizona. Now that you've met a real-life monster, its time you took a break. If you want to read up more on these amazing creatures, www.drseward.com is a great website. So until next time amigos, its "Hasta la vista" from Arizona.

Notes:
1. el nino = Spanish for "boy."
2. la nina = Spanish for "girl."
3. In Spanish, "g" and "h" are pronounced in the same way. So Gila is pronounced as "Hila."
4. Hasta la vista = Spanish for "Until I see you again."

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