Horned Lizards -What a Defense!

Posted by Nancy on 3/20/2018 to All About Reptiles

A few years ago I had the pleasure of working with a young man named Dusty who had just started in the field as a wildlife biologist.  I am going to send him a Horned Lizard cap and a box of bandages. I watched him capture his first horned lizard. When we spotted the horned lizard it scurried across the ground and under a log. Dusty wondered if I could lift the log because he really wanted to catch it. Dusty quickly learned one of the defensive measures that a Horned lizard has in his arsenal. You see the horns are not soft and can be used to protect themselves. Dusty also learned where we keep the first aid kit as he had several punctures in his hand.


 These lizards have some fascinating ways of defending themselves. Dr. Wade Sherbrooke studies have found that these lizards use different types of defense depending on the predator. One of their first lines of protection is their cryptic coloration.  They simply blend into the coloration of the ground and in sandy soil, they wiggle their way below the surface. This type of defense is used against hawks who hunt from the air.


 If a snake is hunting for a bite to eat a different defense is used. The lizard will puff its self up to twice its size and turn over on its back. This seems to discourage most snakes.


 The Most unusual form of defense is their ability to shoot blood from their eyes when threatened by canines. The lizard uses muscular contractions to increase pressure until the ocular sinuses burst squirting blood up to 5 feet away. This blood has a displeasing taste and some scientists believe cause gastric upset.


As you can clearly see Horned Lizards or Horny Toads have cornered the market on unusual ways to defend themselves. I hope you will be able to see this fascinating behavior.  The best place to see them is around ant mounds as this is their preferred food. Happy Hunting!

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