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3 Types of Horned Lizards In Texas (Pictures)

Though their scientific name Phrynosoma means toad-like, the horned lizard is a reptile that can be found in North America. There are only 9 species of this lizard in the United States. A mere 3 call the arid, sandy soil of Texas their home.

Below is detailed information on the 3 horned lizards in Texas. As well as some general information about the species.

Collage photo horned lizards in Texas

The 3 Horned Lizards In Texas

1. Texas Horned Lizard

Texas horned lizard
Texas horned lizard | image: depositphotos

Scientific name: Phrynosoma cornutum

Nicknamed the horny toad because of its round body and flat snout, these lizards are 100% reptilian. Having scales, laying eggs on land, and breathing air.

The Texas horned lizard has 2 large horns on the top of its head. These are an extension of its skull and are bones. There are 2 more horns on both the jawline and brow. Smaller spikes are fanned out across the rest of its body.

Color will vary depending on the lizards’ environment, but they are typically yellow-reddish brown or tannish brown. Females are the larger of the Texas horned lizard at 5 inches in length. While the male averages 3.5 inches.

Due to their prehistoric appearance, people are often fearful of them. However, they are totally peaceful and no threat to humans.

Prone to vitamin deficiency, this lizard will instinctively seek out the sun. They’re often found getting their vitamin D while lounging on rocks.

Food

The main food source for this horned lizard species is harvester ants. Both enjoy the hot dry Texas temperatures of 80 to 95 degrees. The Texas Horned Lizard will also dig for termites and beetles. This leaves them open to predators such as snakes, hawks, roadrunners, and coyotes.

Unique predator defense

This little lizard does have 2 unique defenses against predators. It has the ability to puff up and look much larger than it is. Expanding also causes its scales to stick out, making it difficult for it to be chewed and swallowed.

The other defense is the ability to shoot blood from its eyes. The blood is mixed with a chemical that is extremely foul tasting. This is quite effective in chasing off predators.

Population

Even though they are the official reptile of the state, the Texas Horned lizard population has been decreasing due to the use of pesticides that are killing the harvester ants.

2. Round-Tailed Horned Lizard

Round-tailed horned lizard
Round-tailed Horned Lizard | image by Ashley Wahlberg (Tubbs) via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Scientific name: Phrynosoma modestum

Residing mostly in the western region of Texas, this horned lizard species enjoy sandy, rocky, semi-arid habitats with little vegetation. You can find them in sand dunes, scrubland, and prairies.

The Round-Tailed horned lizard is flat and most are gray. Though occasionally there are brown and yellow ones to be found. One of the smaller of the species, they’re 3 to 4 inches long. A unique crown of 4 horns adorns the back of its head.

Like other reptiles, they are cold-blooded, so they are most active during the day when the sun is at its peak.

Defense-wise, this lizard will roll up into a ball to give the appearance of a rock. Like the Texas horned lizard, they can shoot blood from their eyes, chasing away predators.

Their diet consists of harvester and honeypot ants and will also munch on small invertebrates like flies and crickets.

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The Round-Tail and other lizards will go into a period known as brumation. This is similar to hibernation in mammals. The reptile will go into this dormant state to escape any extreme weather that may occur.

Though, unlike hibernation, brumation does not last as long and the lizard will wake up from time to time to eat and drink. When the brumation period is over, the lizards will mate.

The female will lay 2 to 13 eggs in moist sand or soil. After about 2 months, tiny lizards will hatch ready to fen for themselves. This species is quite stable and not considered at risk.

3. Greater Short-Horned Lizard

Greater short-horned lizard
Greater short-horned lizard | image by Patrick Alexander via Flickr

Scientific name: Phrynosoma hernandesi

The Greater Short-horned Lizard was named in honor of Spanish doctor Francisco Hernández, who was the first to publish an article about the species in 1615.

These lizards are about 2.5 to 5 inches long and have small pointed scales and horns around their head and down their back. With flat bodies and short legs, they are considered squat lizards. Colors vary from yellow to reddish brown but will become more vibrant when scared.

Feeding primarily on ants, the Short Horned lizard will also eat grasshoppers, beetles, and bees. Typically, they will not hunt or forage for their prey. Rather, they’ll sit and wait for it to come near them.

Defense includes inflating their bodies and shooting blood like other horned lizards, as well as simply rolling on their backs and playing dead. These defenses are helpful against predators like snakes.

The Great Short-Horned lizards mate in the spring. Females give birth to an average of 13 to 16 living offspring at a time. Though it can be as much as 45. Newborns are able to take care of themselves within a few hours.

General Information About Horned Lizards

Horned lizards, in general, dating back (according to fossil records) over 1 million years.

There is evidence that the horned lizard was held in high regard by many ancient cultures. The people of Mexico put the horned lizard on petroglyphs, assorted pottery, and effigy bowls. Revering its ability to weep blood.

The Navaho and Hopi cultures used horned lizards in their ceremonies as symbols of strength. Believing they had the power to cure the sick.

Today, though they are found in many states, like California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Washington, and Colorado, some of the horned lizard species have been dwindling. Many factors are contributing to this.

Often, due to their small size, they are scooped up for illegal pet ownership. Increased pesticide use is killing off their food source, specifically the red harvester ants.  Residential and commercial development is encroaching on their habitats.