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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 06, 2021

Desert Horned Lizard: 21 Facts You Won't Believe!

Interesting desert horned lizard facts for kids.

Known for its large pointed scales projecting from the back of the head, the desert horned lizard (Phrynosoma platyrhinos) belongs to the family of Phrynosomatid lizards. The species is found primarily in a few countries of North America such as the United States and Mexico. Idaho, Oregon, Nevada, western Arizona Utah, California, Sonaro, and northeastern Baja California are the main regions where the species dwells. These animals are also known as horny toads.

The desert horned lizard possesses an unusual flat body with a row of scales along the body. The throat also has one row of enlarged scales. An interesting characteristic about the species is its ability of cryptic coloration or camouflage. Its tan or beige-colored body helps the lizard to blend in with its surroundings. The horns of the species are wide at the base, unlike the short-horned lizard and the average length of a desert horned lizard is 2.7-3.7 in (70-95 mm). Several species of the Phrynosomatid family weigh between 0.05-0.19 lb (25-90 g).

These lizards are carnivores and they generally prey on invertebrates such as ants, crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, worms, flies, and ladybugs. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed the species under the Least Concern category. A loss of their habitat and an increase in accidents that result in their death have emerged as the major threats to the species.

Let's read more interesting facts about the desert horned lizard and if you found this article insightful, don't forget to check out exciting information about different animals like the Texas horned lizard and the frilled lizard.

Desert Horned Lizard Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a desert horned lizard?

The desert horned lizard (Phrynosoma platyrhinos) is a species of lizard known for its large pointed scales. The species is a carnivore that feeds on invertebrates such as ants, crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, flies, and many more. The desert horned lizard is also known as a horny toad.

What class of animal does a desert horned lizard belong to?

The species belongs to the class Reptilia, the family Phrynosomatidae, and the Phrynosoma genus. The Phrynosomatidae family includes several species of horned lizards such as the flat-tailed horned lizard, the regal horned lizard, the short-horned lizard, and many more.

How many desert horned lizards are there in the world?

The exact population of desert horned lizards is not known as of now but the species is distributed across North America. Studies also reveal that the population is stable.

Where does a desert horned lizard live?

Desert horned lizards are found primarily in North America, in the United States and Mexico. Idaho, Oregon, California, Nevada, Sonaro, western Arizona, Utah, the Mojave deserts, and northeastern Baja California are the regions where these lizards dwell.

What is a desert horned lizard's habitat?

The typical desert horned lizard habitat that this species inhabits is found in deserts and xeric shrublands. Contrastingly, the short-horned lizard dwells in temperate grasslands while the regal horned lizard is found in arid and semiarid plains.

Who do desert horned lizards live with?

Like other species of horned lizards, desert horned lizards are solitary animals and they prefer to live alone. These lizards come together during the mating season and are often seen fighting with other lizards. Desert horned lizards in the northern range are diurnal, unlike lizards in the southern range.

How long does a desert horned lizard live?

The average lifespan of desert horned lizards is between five and eight years but other species of horned lizards such as Texas horned lizards generally live for around seven years in the wild. These lizards generally live longer if kept in captivity.

How do they reproduce?

The breeding season of the desert horned lizard (Phrynosoma platyrhinos) occurs right after hibernation, and the season generally lasts from April to mid-June. During this period, males travel in search of females to mate with. Both males and females reach sexual maturity after two years of age.

Males also perform several courtship displays such as the movement of their heads to grab the attention of their partners. Females can reject males by waving their tails and after mating, the pairs do not show any interest in each other.

Female Texas horned lizards deposit the eggs after 44 days in a tunnel. The incubation period lasts for around 40-60 days and between two and 16 eggs are laid. Once these eggs are laid, females usually refill the tunnel to hide any evidence of their nesting site. No parents are involved in protecting the hatchlings once they are born.

What is their conservation status?

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed the species in the Least Concern category. Studies reveal that the population of desert horned lizards is relatively stable but a loss of habitat and a growth in accidents have emerged as major threats to the species.

Desert Horned Lizard Fun Facts

What do desert horned lizards look like?

The desert horned lizard possesses an unusual flat body with a row of scales. Its throat also has one row of enlarged scales along it. An interesting characteristic about the species is its ability of cryptic coloration or camouflage. Its tan or beige-colored body helps the lizard to blend with its surroundings. The horns of the species are wide at the base.

These desert horned lizard facts would make you love them.

How cute are they?

The horns of desert-horned lizards might look a little scary but these lizards are actually quite cute!

How do they communicate?

Like other species of horned lizards, the horny toad uses similar methods to communicate with each other. The lizard generally moves its head to show interest in mating with another lizard or to establish bonds with others. When they do this, the front part of their body is raised to get a better view of their surroundings. Studies also reveal that this lizard uses its head and claws while competing with each other for mates.

How big is a desert horned lizard?

They are medium-sized lizards and the average body length of desert horned lizards is 2.7-3.7 in (70-95 mm), while several species of the Phrynosomatid family weigh between 0.05-0.19 lb (25-90 g). These horned lizards are twice the size of dwarf salamanders and Barton Springs salamanders.

How fast can a desert horned lizard move?

The exact speed of desert horned lizards is not known but these lizards have the ability to move in quick bursts of speed and blend with their surroundings. They become almost invisible when their prey approaches and then attack suddenly. The species is known as one of the best ambush predators in the Phrynosomatidae family.

How much does a desert horned lizard weigh?

The exact weight of the desert horned lizard is not known but most horned lizard species weigh between 0.05-0.19 lb (25-90 g). The hatchlings weigh between 0.0012-0.0017 lb (0.57 g to 0.81 g).

What are their male and female names of the species?

There are no specific names given to male and female desert horned lizards. People often refer to them collectively as horny toads.

What would you call a baby desert horned lizard?

No particular name has been given to the babies of desert horned lizards. Terms such as juveniles and offspring are used more widely for baby lizards. Desert horned lizard babies have pointed scales and strong cranial spines, unlike adult lizards.

What do they eat?

In the average desert horned lizard diet you will find a wide range of insects. The horny toad is a carnivore and primarily preys on crickets, ants, beetles, grasshoppers, worms, flies, ladybugs, and more. This species also likes red harvest ants, also known as red ants.

Are they poisonous?

Medium-sized desert horned lizards may look like easy prey and yummy snacks to big predators. That is until these lizards start squirting blood from their eyes! To protect themselves, these lizards can squirt blood into the predator's mouth, but these lizards do not pose any danger or threat to humans. This blood is not poisonous but it does deter predators.

Would they make a good pet?

Owning horned lizards as a pet is not possible as it is illegal to keep these lizards in many countries. These lizards are also considered quite hard to tame, unlike other reptiles. Due to their specific dietary requirements and way of living, the survival of these lizards in human environments becomes very difficult. They need to be in the wild to feed on ants, especially red harvest ants.  

Did you know...

There are around 22 species in the Phrynosoma genus, and out of these, a total of 15 species are native to the United States. All these species possess true horns on their head.

The temperature and moisture level of the environment in which desert horned lizard eggs are laid, determine the gender of the hatchlings in the eggs.

The northern desert horned lizard (Phrynosoma platyrhinos platyrhinos) and southern desert horned lizard (Phrynosoma platyrhinos caldarium) are both subspecies of desert horned lizard. The former subspecies is found in states such as Idaho, Nevada, and Utah, while the latter one is found in California, western Arizona, and northeastern Baja California.

How do desert horned lizards survive in the desert?

Like other species of lizards living in deserts, desert horned lizards dig burrows to protect themselves from the scorching heat. Also, several species hibernate from October to March as they are not able to regulate their body temperature during winter. Their thick skin also helps them to conserve water in difficult times.

Why does a horned lizard squirt blood?

Several species of horned lizard can squirt blood into the mouth of their predators in order to protect themselves. Theys are able to shoot the blood up to 5 ft (1.5 m) quite easily. They generally use this blood to defend against big predators such as cats, wild dogs, coyotes, and more. The main purpose of squirting the blood directly into the mouth of their predator is to confuse the predator with the unusual taste of their blood. A desert horned lizard shooting blood into the mouth of its predator to protect itself is undoubtedly one of the most interesting desert horned lizard adaptations.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other reptiles from our reticulated python facts and gopher snake facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable lizard coloring pages.

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