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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Species Fact Profile: Texas Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum)

Texas Horned Lizard
Phrynosoma cornutum (Harlan, 1825)

Range: South-Central United States, Northern Mexico
Habitat: Deserts, Prairies, Scrubland
Diet: Ants (Especially Harvester Ants), Beetles, Grasshoppers
Social Grouping: Solitary, Loose Groups
Reproduction: Breed from late April through July.  Lay eggs in moist sandy areas, where they incubate for 45-55 days.  No parental care is provided.  Fully grown by 3 years old.
Lifespan: 5-8 Years
Conservation Status: IUCN Least Concern

  • Average body length 7 centimeters, but may be up to 12 centimeters.  Males are larger than females.  The body is squat and rounded with a blunt nsount an short legs, resulting in the nickname "horned toad."
  • Back is tan or grey with highlights of white, red, or yellow, as well as black spots.  The underside of tan or grey.
  • The Latin name translates to "Toad-Body with Horns", in reference to the horn-like projections growing from the back of the lizard's head.  Smaller spines are found on the back and sides.
  • Active by day.  If too hot, the lizard will burrow in the sand or hide in the shade.  During the cooler parts of the year, they will hibernate
  • When frightened, horned lizards will puff themselves up to appear larger.  If danger persists, the lizard will squirt a stream of blood (up to 1.3 of their body's volume) out of a pore near the eye
  • During rains, horned lizards flatten themselves on the ground and lower their heads so that rainwater is funneled into their mouths.
  • Horned lizards have declined in recent years due to loss of habitat, the use of pesticides, and the introduction of invasive fire ants, which displace the harvester ants that the lizards feed upon
  • Sometimes sold and kept as a pet, but typically prove hard to keep due to their specialized diet.  Released pets have resulted in introduced populations in parts of the southeastern United States
  • Horned toads have featured prominently in the artwork of southwestern Native Americans and were considered sacred by some tribes.  They are the mascot of Texas Christian University and the official state reptile of Texas

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