Horned Lizard: 6 Physical Features Plus 9 Fun Facts

Brief introduction

Horned lizards are one of the fearsome looking creatures. These spiny creatures look as hungry as anyone when they see a coyote coming near them. They are the popular species of phrynosomatid lizards. Horny toads is another name for these animals. But in reality, they are not toad they are just those lizards roaming around. These species have very distinct features. People believe both humans and Lizards have shared the land for thousands of years.

Physical characteristics

The following are the physical features of a horned lizard.

1. Appearance and size

People discuss the Horned lizard as a horny toad and horned toad. It is in a flattened shape, and it gives a toad-ish look to the viewers. They are easily distinguished from other species by the formidable crown of antler which adorns their head. These antlers are also known as a spined horned lizard. Their color can be yellowish, gray or even red. The short-horned lizard has a wide tail. Their color of skin is very adaptive to the environment. The color blends according to the environment. It has many other features which distinguish them from other creatures. They have a very sticky tongue which is always ready to catch the prey. Their color can blend in almost every type of item around them. They have the ability to fatten themselves which saves them being swallowed by the predators. The tiny spines on the body of horned lizard can hurt the stomach of a predator. Some horned lizards have harmful bacteria in their spines which can cause infection in the predator. These lizards can quickly run along short distances to escape from the predators.

2. Food and eating habits

Horned lizard on golden sand.With a rise in temperature, the Horned Lizards become more active. At that time they need more food as they begin to feel hungry. These lizards eat many types of invertebrates. Their diet mainly consists of insects, butterflies, and moths. Whenever they have availability of food, they will consume it even if they already had enough of food before. Their main diet staple is an ant. They can wait for hours to get their food. These creatures search for their prey in open areas. When they see a prey passing pass them, they quickly snap them and flick the prey with their tongue.

3. Habitat and distribution

Their location lies in the areas of Mexico and different parts of Western United States. In Arkansas, there are varieties of horned lizards found. Guatemala and the British Columbia also have a huge share of these creatures. These lizards usually thrive in those habitats which are scorching and dry during the day. They prefer sticky in the sandy areas for long hours. They are not easily adaptable to the environment. Some are found in hot deserts where other animals also live while some prefer living in mountain regions throughout the season.

4. Behavior

During fall these lizards bury themselves in sand. They usually hibernate themselves so well that they are not disturbed by the humans or any other living creatures. As the temperature of the atmosphere warms up, they come back. They bask in the sunlight in day times. To get the most of the heat absorbed they tilt their body on the ground. To keep themselves warm they bury themselves at night until the next day.

5. Reproduction

Mating in horned lizards usually takes place from mid-April and goes on until July. The male lizards fight with another male to show the ability to mate with the female lizards. After mating with one female they go and find another female to mate. After mating, the female seeks a nest to lay eggs which will come in few weeks.

Funny picture of horned lizard blood squirting.
Source: http://rebrn.com/

The eggs laid by the female lizards are covered with the layer of sand. The sand helps to keep the eggs warm. It also prevents the predators to remain away from the eggs. After the eggs get a hatch, the female never comes back to see the eggs. At one time she can lay about 10 to 30 eggs. The young ones go and find their ways to lead an independent life.

6. The blood squirting mechanism

Horned lizards have blood squirting defense which helps the horned lizard to deter its predator. The regal horned lizard depends on crypsis to disguise the predator. Their biggest predators are coyotes and foxes. When they see a predator near them, they remain still to make the predator think that they are dead. If this technique doesn’t work, they enlarge their horns straight up and enlarge themselves to give a more honed look. It can easily grow up to 7 inches in length. They are very popular for squirting blood when they are in danger. The squirting of blood starts from their eye, and it can move to a distance of 5 feet. It increases its blood pressure and in result the tiny vessels which are around the socket cause the sinus wall to tear open. Then the lizard shoots blood. The squirting of blood not only confuse the predator but also taste and smells awful for it. The released blood is the mixture of harmful chemicals that comes when feeding on venomous insects. They aim the direction of blood towards the face of their predator, so they feel bad taste and run away. This cool looking trick is used by almost all the horned lizards.

Apart from a shooting blood, there are many other ways to protect themselves from the predators. The coloration is usually used to serve as camouflage. At the moment of the threat, they avoid movement. They try to remain still in front of their predators to confuse them. If shooting the blood in the eyes of predator fails they then puff their bodies. This results in the spiny scales to protrude. In this way, the spine creature looks larger, and predator finds it tough to swallow.

How to tell if the horned lizard is a toad?

Horned lizard family piled up.A horned lizard is usually known as a horny toad. It takes its name from the round body structure. Sexing these spiny creatures means looking the tail from beneath and observing the sides of belly. You will identify some pores and bulges. You don’t know whether the horned lizard is a toad until the toad is of several months. According to research, the female horny toads are larger in length. But only knowing the length is not enough to now the sex of this creature.  Here are some steps to easily identify the sex of horny lizard:

  • Step one:

The observer must observe the undersides of the belly of horny lizards. He will observe the femoral pores. These pores are present along the side of abdomen and the upper region of legs as well. These pores will be larger on the male’s body and tiny on the female body.

  • Step two:

Now check the hemi penal bulge which is below the legs and abdomen. The abdomen and legs are connected with the belly. The bulge is said to be puffy in the body of a male. These bulges are not present in a female body.

  • Step three:

The next step is to identify the size of the vent. The vent will be horizontal, and it will be present across the abdomen in the body of a male lizard. It does not exist in the body of the female.

  • Step four:

The last step is to judge the overall size of the tail. You will find that male horny toad will have a larger and heart-shaped tail. The female has a triangular shaped tail as compared to that of the male.

Other fun facts

Here are some amazing fun facts of the horned lizards:

  • They are the unique looking creatures in the desert areas. They are also native to desert territories.
  • When the predators threaten them, they squirt blood from their eyes. The blood comes from the corner of their eyes.
  • Their tail is thin and pointed which is different from all other lizards.
  • The color of their skin depends on the environment. It keeps changing according to the environment.
  • These spiny creatures are light in weight, and they can easily fit in the palm of a child.
  • The horned lizards live in a variety of habitat, but they are mostly found living in loose soil and sand burrowing.
  • They even weigh less than a quarter.
  • The newly born lizard is just like a dime.
  • The horned lizard loves eating ants and beetles.

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