Texas Horned Lizard
The Texas Horned Lizard, Phrynosoma cornutum, is one of fourteen North
American species of spike-bodied reptiles, called horned lizards. The
Texas species ranges from Colorado and Kansas to northern Mexico, and from southeastern Arizona to Louisiana and Arkansas. Texas is the heart of its range. There are also some isolated populations in the Carolinas, Georgia, and northern Florida.
The horned lizard is popularly called a horned toad or horned frog, but is neither a toad nor a frog. The popular names come form the lizard’s rounded shape and blunt snout, which gives it a frog or toad-like appearance. The lizard’s horns are not true horns, but modified spiny scales. It is the largest and most widely distributed of 8 species of horned lizard in the United States. It grows to a maximum of 4 to 6 inches. Although its coloration generally serves as camouflage against predation, when threatened by a predator, it puffs up its body to cause its spiny scales to protrude, making it difficult to swallow. This lizard is also capable of squirting an aimed stream of blood from the corner of its eyes for a distance of up to three feet. This not only confuses the would-be predator, the blood is mixed with noxious biochemical fluid that is foul tasting to wolves, coyotes, bobcats, and domestic dogs and cats.
The diet of the horned lizard is mostly made up of harvester ants, though they supplement these with termites, beetles, and grasshoppers. In recent years, populations of the horned lizard have decreased by 30% of its range due to overuse of pesticides and the spread of non-native Brazilian fire ants. Both eradicate harvester ant colonies, thus destroying the primary source of food for the horned lizard.. The Texas horned lizard is now a protected species and it is illegal to capture, possess, transport or sell them without special license. Some Native Americans consider this animal sacred. The horned lizard is the state reptile of Texas.