Desert Horned Lizard

Desert Horned Lizard

Horny toad

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Suborder
Genus
SPECIES
Phrynosoma platyrhinos
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
5-8 yrs
LENGTH
95 mm

Desert horned lizards are medium-sized lizards native to western North America. They have a distinctive flat body with one row of fringe scales down the sides. They have one row of slightly enlarged scales on each side of the throat. Colors can vary and generally blend in with the color of the surrounding soil, but they usually have a beige, tan, or reddish dorsum with contrasting, wavy blotches of darker color. They have two dark blotches on the neck that are very prominent and are bordered posteriorly by a light white or grey color. They also have scattered pointed scales and other irregular dark blotches along the dorsum of their body. Unlike other horned lizards, Desert horned lizards do not have a prominent dorsal stripe. Their dorsal stripe can appear faintly or be entirely absent depending on the individual. They also have pointed scales on the dorsum (back) of the body. Juveniles are similar to adults but have shorter and less-pronounced cranial spines.

Di

Diurnal

No

Nocturnal

Ca

Carnivore

In

Insectivores

My

Myrmecophagous

Te

Terrestrial

Am

Ambush predator

Bu

Burrowing

Ov

Oviparous

Pr

Precocial

So

Solitary

So

Social

No

Not a migrant

D

starts with

De

Desert Dwellers
(collection)

Distribution

Geography

Desert horned lizards can be found in southeastern Oregon, California, western Arizona and Utah, and Nevada. Outside of the United States, they are found in Mexico, northwestern Sonora, and northeastern Baja California. These lizards occur mostly in the Sonoran and Mojave deserts and prefer places with shrub covering and understory.

Habits and Lifestyle

Desert horned lizards are solitary and can be active both during the day and at night. In southern range they are nocturnal but in the north of their range they diurnal and usually inactive at night. Desert horned lizards often bury themselves in sand soil, if possible, or they may live in burrows that were constructed by other animals. When hunting, Desert horned lizards can often be found in the vicinity of ant hills, where they sit and wait for ants to pass by. When they find an area of soft sand, they usually shake themselves vigorously, throwing sand over their backs and leaving only their head exposed. This allows them to await their unsuspecting prey and also to hide from predators. Desert horned lizards are generally gentle creatures, but have been known to try to push their cranial spines into the hand if held. When excited, they puff themselves up with air, making themselves look bigger. If spotted near a bush, they will dash into it in an attempt to find cover from any threat. Unlike most other species of horned lizard, Desert horned lizards tend to run when startled, though they will often only run for a short period of time before stopping again. They are also able to squirt blood from their eyes.

Group name
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Desert horned lizards are carnivores (insectivores). They prey primarily on invertebrates, such as ants (including red harvester ants,) crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, worms, flies, ladybugs, meal worms and some plant material.

Mating Habits

REPRODUCTION SEASON
April-June
INCUBATION PERIOD
50-60 days
BABY NAME
hatchling
BABY CARRYING
2-16 eggs

Desert horned lizards breed from April to June and may produce 1-2 clutches per year. Each clutch usually consists of 2-16 eggs and the incubation period lasts for 50-60 days. Young horned lizards become reproductively mature and start to breed when they are 22 months old.

Population

Population threats

There are no major threats to Desert horned lizards at present. However, locally they suffer from habitat loss due to urbanization and agricultural development. They are also often hit by vehicles.

Population number

According to IUCN, the Desert horned lizard is locally common throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Desert horned lizards are often referred to as "horny toads", although they are not toads, but lizards.
  • The Desert horned lizard may exhibit rain-harvesting behavior in the wild. When rain-harvesting the lizard adopts a specific posture in order to get its mouth closer to the ground.
  • Desert horned lizards perform a number of displays that usually appear to be most concerned with sex and species recognition. These behaviors include various tail positions such as curled, between the legs, or arched down with scratching behaviors, push ups, and a three-legged stance where one of the hind legs is held off the ground and the back is presented to predators.

References

1. Desert Horned Lizard on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desert_horned_lizard
2. Desert Horned Lizard on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/89974770/89975571

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