Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Short-Horned Lizard

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My good friend, Dave Rintoul, has just returned from a much-deserved vacation camping in the Chiricahuas and Gila Wilderness area and sent a couple images to share with you.

Greater Short-horned lizard, Phrynosoma hernandezi, in Chaco Canyon.
According to the photographer, this animal was a very cooperative subject.
(NOTE: This species was recently split into the greater and lesser short-horned lizards).

Image: Dave Rintoul, June 2008 [larger view].


  1. #1 Sheri
    June 13, 2008

    Splendid! Looks a little like Edward G. Robinson, don’t ya think? Horned lizards have been some of my favorite critters since I was a tiny toddler in Texas, but their populations have declined so much that I doubt many youngsters growing up in the Southwest these days have the same opportunities to see them that I did.

  2. #2 Bill Dearmore
    June 13, 2008

    Sheri already said part of what I was going to, about the horned lizards being so common in Texas and the rest of the Southwest a few decades ago. They were commonly, but incorrectly, known as “horn toads” or “horny toads.”

    It is widely believed and reported in usually reliable sources that at least four species of this lizard can shoot a directed stream of blood from the corner of each eye for a distance of about a meter to ward off predators. I’ve never personally witnessed this, but it is apparently true.

    They began dying out about the same time the imported fire ants from South America reached this area, and a connection is usually assumed. One hypothesis is that the new species of ant are poisonous to the horned lizards, and ants are their primary food. Another possiblity is that the fire ants eat the eggs of the horned lizard. I am not aware of the research being done to verify either of these hypotheses, but I would like to hear about it if it has been.

  3. #3 Chris' Wills
    June 14, 2008

    #2 Bill,
    These links give some information on why they are declining.

    Fire ants are involved as are humans.

    See Q.6 for some possible reasons

    more reasons the horny toads are declining

    more general information

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