Two species of American lizard are closely related to the old world goannas. These inhabit the dryer areas of the American Southwest and Central America, but cannot survive in the most inhospitable desert areas. The most notable aspect of these lizards, however, is that they are the only modern lizards with venom.
The appearance of the heloderms is similar to that of the monitors, but shorter and stubbier. The tail is typically not as long or powerful, and the neck is shorter. The skin is covered in large beady scales in striking patterns like Native American beadwork.
Heloderms spend most of the dry season holed up in burrows, but become active in the summer monsoons. They forage widely for food, climbing to raid bird's nests, digging up nests of young rodents, scavenging, and generally eating anything that does not move too fast. They locate prey almost entirely by scent, and can smell food buried deep in the ground. Like the goannas, the heloderms have a high aerobic metabolism to allow them to wander widely in search of food without becoming exhausted. Unlike the goannas, however, the heloderms are slow and sluggish. They are adapted for extreme energy conservation, a couple good meals a year is all they need. The fat from these meals is stored in the tail, well fed heloderms have plump rounded tails, those that have fasted for long periods have much thinner tails. Do not let the normaly sedate lifestyle of the heloderm lure you into a false sense of confidence, however - when necessary, these lizards can lunge and snap with speed and accuracy to defend themselves.
Heloderm venom is not needed to catch their prey, which is easily overcome by the heloderm's powerful jaws; it seems to be primarily defensive in nature. When threatened, the lizard will gape and hiss, moving quickly despite their stubby appearance. If pressed to hard, the heloderm will clamp down with vice-like jaws. Holding on with its crushing bite, it chews to work venom into the wound. The venom flows from glands in the lower jaw along grooves in the teeth and into the flesh of its victim. The primary symptom of heloderm venom is severe pain, even agony. Even though relatively little tissue damage may be done, the victim can be incapacitated by pain. Other symptoms include localized swelling, perspiration, fatigue, and internal bleeding. When gaming the effect of heloderm venom, each second of chewing administers another dose of venom. Do not roll damage for each dose separately - instead,
Heloderms do not require each other's company, but they will occasionally hang out together or share the same burrow. The females lay eggs in a sandy burrow, cover it up, and leave the eggs and young to fend for themselves.
The earliest monstersaurs lived in the Cretaceous period, and lived alongside some of the most bizzare and extravagant of the dinosaurs. They grew as large as the modern Komodo dragon, had a body shape more like a goanna (and thus likely had goanna-level speeds and activities), but were still venomous.
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