Texas State Reptile
Texas Horned Lizard (common name)
Phrynosoma cornutum (scientific name)
Though it is a lizard, this reptile’s wide, flat, bumpy body makes it look more like frog or a toad. The spikes on its head are made of bone, so they’re truly horns. The Texas horned lizard has a wider range than most similar species and is relatively common in a number of southern and central U.S. states. Numbers are declining, though, as this lizard loses both its habitat and its main source of food, harvester ants. This lizard became the official Texas state reptile in 1993.
ALSO KNOWN AS
Horned toad, horny toad, horned frog
Unlike other horned lizards, the Texas horned lizard has a single pair of horns growing out of the back of its head, rather than a cluster or crown of horns. Its body is covered with irregular, spiky scales, including four ridges of scales on its back and two rows of pointed scales on each side. These spikes stand out more when the lizard puffs its body up, a defense mechanism that makes a horned lizard both look more threatening and more difficult to swallow. The Texas horned lizard is usually brownish with dark mottling, and has a long white or light-colored stripe running from its head all the way down its back. This coloration helps the lizard to blend in with its surroundings, masking it from the predators.
Average 5 years.
Dry and semi-dry areas with thin vegetation.
Range: Parts of Kansas, Missouri, and Colorado south through Texas and Arizona into Mexico. Scattered populations in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and other southern states, mostly in coastal areas.
Conservation Status: Least Concern (LC). Though numbers of horned lizards have decreased dramatically in some areas, they still have a large contiguous range. They are, however, protected in several states, including Texas, where they are considered threatened. Loss of habitat is an issue for these reptiles, as are pesticides that kill ants, their main food source.
The Texas horned lizard lives in hot, dry areas and sits on the ground to bask, though it will retreat to the shade in the hottest part of the day. It burrows into the ground to sleep each night, and in autumn, it digs into soft sand to hibernate. When it emerges in spring, it basks in the sun to bring its body temperature up, and then forages for food, usually ants.
Spring is also mating season. A female lays six to as many as 37 eggs soon after mating. She builds a nest up to eight inches (20.3 cm) deep in fairly dry soil, with enough cover to shield the eggs from the sun. After covering the nest with sand, she leaves it. Young hatch up to nine weeks later and are immediately independent. Newly hatched lizards have horns but are smooth-skinned. They are mature at about three years old. This lizard doesn’t chase insects, instead using its tongue to catch slow-moving insects one at a time. A horned lizard is vulnerable to predators including hawks, cats, dogs, snakes, and coyotes.
Harvester ants, beetles, larvae, termites, grasshoppers, grubs, spiders.
Breeding interval: Annual
Hatching period: June-September
Average nest size: 24 eggs
Hatchling size: Average length 1 in (2.5 cm) snout to vent
Click to enlarge an image
Raw Data Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Author: World Trade Press