Texas horned lizard

Phrynosoma cornutum

SUBFAMILY

Phrynosomatinae

TAXONOMY

Phrynosoma cornutum Harlan, 1825, Great Plains, east of the Rocky Mountains. No subspecies are recognized.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Horned toad, horny toad, San Diego horned lizard, California horned lizard; French: Lézard crapaud ou cornu; German: Texas-Krotenechse; Spanish: Torito de la Virgen.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Texas horned lizards are squat and spiny, with a short tail and two large occipital "horns" on the head. They also have a large blotch on either side of the neck, and large, dark spots on the back. The general body color is brown, sometimes with a yellowish or reddish tint, but color varies with external temperature. Adults are typically about 3 in long (7.6 cm), but some may reach 5 in (12.7 cm).

DISTRIBUTION

Texas horned lizards occur in the west-central United States, and in northern Mexico.

HABITAT

These lizards are found nearly anywhere throughout their range where it is dry, flat, and sparsely vegetated.

BEHAVIOR

Texas horned lizards are diurnal. They peculiarly squirt blood from their eyes. This behavior may be observed while the lizard is shedding, or when it is seriously threatened. Other defensive tactics include hissing, inflating the body, and erecting the horns at an attacker.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Ants are the primary component of the diet of the Texas horned lizard, although the lizards will also eat other arthropods. They drink by gathering raindrops on their back, then channeling the drops through their scales and into the mouth.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Texas horned lizards mate in spring, and females lay an unusually large number of eggs (two to three dozen) which they bury about 6 in (15.2 cm) deep. The young typically hatch in July and early August.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not listed by the IUCN, but the species has disappeared from about one-half of its historical range. Their disappearance coincides with a loss of habitat, as well as a proliferation of fire ants. Fire ants have displaced harvester ants, a mainstay of the lizard's diet.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

An unusual and well-known reptile, it is the state reptile of Texas. ♦

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