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.
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.
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.