Texas Horned Lizard (Horned Toad)

Phrynosoma cornutum

Background Information

The Texas Horned Lizard is commonly known as the Horned Toad or Horned Frog (yes, like TCU), however it is actually a reptile so it is a lizard.


Description:

-4 to 5 inches

-flat-bodied and fierce-looking lizard.

-head has numerous horns, all of which are prominent, with two central head spines being much longer than any of the others.

-brownish with two rows of fringed scales along each side of the body.

- They are actually quite docile and people used to keep them as pets.


Where Found:

-found in many parts of South Central United States and Northern Mexico


Habitat:

-arid and semiarid habitats in open areas with sparse plant cover

-horned lizards dig for hibernation, nesting and insulation purposes, so they commonly are found in loose sand or loamy soils.


Diet:

-harvester ants, though they supplement these with termites, beetles, and grasshoppers

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Fun Fact

The horned lizard has the ability to aim and squirt a stream of blood from the corners of the eyes and sometimes from its mouth for 5 feet. This not only confuses predators, but also the blood is mixed with a chemical that is foul-tasting to predators such as wolves, coyotes, and domestic dogs. Another defense is to puff themselves up so that the are fearsome looking to predators.


Also the lizard is the state reptile of Texas.

Threats

The most commonly blamed threats are fire ants, over-collection, and habitat destruction. When fire ants came to the United States they preyed on horned lizard eggs and they also eat harvester ants, the primary diet for horned lizards. However the exact causes are not known.

Conservation Efforts

The horned lizards do have efforts but it is very difficult to preserve the fragile reptiles. The Texas State Legislature passed a law in 1967 banning the collection, export, and sale of horned lizards. In 1990Texans formed the Horned Lizard Conservation Society, which is working to discover what’s causing the disappearance of the horny toads and partnering with ranchers, farmers, and landowners to protect them. The conservationists fear that childhood memories and Texas heritage will be lost is the lizards are not saved. Banning the sell and exportation will help, as well as trying to help maintain their natural habitat.