Updated: Sep 5, 2022
1. One of today’s rarest wild lizards, the beaded lizard, is found in Guatemala, a beautiful South American country that is situated south of Mexico. Guatemala is world famous not only for its ancient Mayan culture, but also for its stunning rainforests. The Guatemalan beaded lizard, also known as the Motagua Valley beaded lizard, is one of the unique reptiles found in these rainforests, particularly being endemic to the forests of the Motagua Valley. Although Guatamalan beaded lizards were known to the local inhabitants for centuries, they were “discovered” and brought to light only in the 1980s.
2. These beautiful reptiles have black bumpy scales on their backs and bumpy soft scales on their belly that give them a “beaded” appearance. Beaded lizards are highly venomous--interestingly, though, the lizard uses its venom only for self-defense and not for killing prey. However, when they do search for food, they are mainly nocturnal and venture out when it is cool outside such as dawn or dusk, and mainly lie inside rock crevices to cool themselves during the hot day.
3. Being slow, the Guatemalan beaded lizards cannot run fast after their prey, so they have adapted another strategy to obtain nourishment. They essentially go after the eggs of birds such as doves and parakeets which nest somewhat closer to ground in trees. Even though bulky, these lizards can climb up the strong branches to pilfer food. The lizards also have keen sense of smell that allows them to find eggs buried underground in sand and dig them up. In addition to eggs, they also eat insects, beetles, and crickets.
4. Scientists found that the Guatamalan beaded lizards possess a remarkable ability to stabilize their blood sugar level. They found the secret was in a unique hormone called Exendin-4 found in venom. They realized that this hormone works like the human hormone that regulates insulin production. However, it was also found that, interestingly, the lizard’s hormone lasts longer than the human counterpart and became the inspiration for novel therapies for people suffering from type 2 diabetes. Scientists have been able to synthetically produce the hormone for the anti-diabetic drug called Byetta made from the hormone found in the Gila monster’s venom.
5. The Guatamalan beaded lizard is critically endangered, with less than 200 existing in the wild. The numbers are dwindling mainly due to habitat loss and climate change, however also sadly due to humans keeping them as pets, purchasing them through illegal trading, or poaching them for their skin. Nonetheless, the lifespan of the Guatamalan beaded lizard can range 50-60 years.
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Did You Know?
Another endangered lizard, the Komodo Dragon of Indonesia, ambushes and bites prey, like the buffalo. Although the wound itself does not kill the prey, the saliva of the Komodo Dragon harbors large amounts of bacteria that ultimately poison its victim. The prey dies of exhaustion and from the infected wound. Normally, though, these giant lizards prefer carrion as it is less work to obtain nourishment.
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