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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

Horned Toads : Facts You Won’t Believe!

One of the best horned toad facts is that they have excellent camouflage capabilities

Horned toads, also known as horny toads or horned lizards, are a type of lizard that is largely native to the North American continent. These animals, which are reptiles, are known by the scientific name Phrynosoma which translates to 'body like a toad'. The most commonly occurring species of horned lizards are Texas horned lizards, also known as Phrynosoma cornutum.

The horned lizard (Phrynosoma) is characterized by a spiky snout, small and flattened round bodies, and camouflage abilities. Texas horned lizards naturally are found in the deserts of Texas but horned lizards can also be found in the American states of Colorado, Kansas, and Arizona. Texas horned lizards are sometimes confused with Texas spiny lizards. Once popular as pets, Texas horned lizards have declined in numbers recently since they don't do great in captivity. In Oklahoma, Texas horned lizards are under protection, and April to September is considered an active season for these horned toads in Oklahoma.

Of the many species of horned toads, one is the short-horned lizard (Phrynosoma hernandesi). The short-horned lizard is as big as a teacup, about 2.5-6 in (6.35-15.24 cm) long. The short-horned lizard is also native to the Northern and Central Americas, ranging from Guatemala to southern Canada. The short-horned lizard, much like any other horny toad, has specific defense mechanisms. The short-horned lizard is capable of ejecting blood from the periphery of its eyes which proves effective against dogs and coyotes, blowing up its body to twice its size to resemble a spiky balloon. The pet trade and destruction of their habitat have both proven detrimental to the short-horned lizard population.

According to different sources, there may be anywhere between 22 to 89 total species of the horned toad. Of these, about 15 species exist in the North American continent, mainly in the Sonoran desert, and also in Mexico. Brown is one of the most common colors on the body of this reptile, helping it to blend in with the brown of the sand. Their behavior is described as sluggish and stationary. Different species of these reptiles favor different geographic habitats. The flat-tailed species of the horned lizard favors the fine sand of the desert, whereas short-horned lizards favor shortgrass prairies and fir forests. Regal-horned lizards are most common in rocky and arid regions of the Arizona hills and slopes. Horned lizards can exist from sea level to altitudes as high as 11,000 ft (3,353 m).

This toad's appearance is characterized by a thorny projection (or horns) from their head and parallel, fringe-like scales on their side, swollen tails, and anal scales on males. Regal-horned lizards almost exclusively eat harvester ants, but not dead ones. Horned lizards capture ants via their very sticky tongues, not their jaws since they have very short teeth. Although harvester ants are venomous, their venom seems to have little effect on the insides of a horned lizard. A whole swarm of ants, however, is a threat to a horned lizard and they retreat in the presence of one.  An adult horned lizard can be killed by a swarm of ants that attacks together.

The tough exterior of the bodies of the horned lizard proves to be a challenge for predatorial snakes. Also, horned lizards are sometimes indistinguishable from rocks, their camouflage being that excellent. The tough body may sometimes hinder mobility, however. A horned lizard may also pretend to be dead or present the thorny large part of its body to a predator like a snake. Another defense tactic is to run away, suddenly stop, and hiss at their predators, squirting blood out of their eyes and wagging their tails violently. Another great feature of their bodies is that it makes it easy for them to collect heat from the sun, especially in lower temperature habitats. The horned lizard is able to orient and move its body to obtain maximum sunlight. And for horned lizards that live in the arid desert, digging into the soil comes easy. The lizard makes use of the scales on its lower jaw to disturb and cut the soil or earth, and then vibrates its jaw and literally shakes its body into the ground, with almost no part left above the ground's surface.

Find out more about horned toads here, or learn about the water dragon and Komodo dragon here on Kidadl!

Horned Toads Interesting Facts

What type of animal are horned toads?

The horned toad is a lizard, which is why they are also known as horned lizards.

What class of animal does a horned toad belong to?

Horned toads belong to the reptile class of animals.

How many horned toads are there in the world?

The exact number of horned toads left in the world is unclear, but their population is declining, especially for Texas horned lizards (Phrynosoma cornutum) and short-horned lizards

Where does a horned toad live?

Horny toads live in desert habitats.

What is a horned toad's habitat?

Horny toads are mainly found in arid climates and deserts. However, these animals, also known as horned lizards, are known to inhabit a variety of geographic territories including wild regions of the Sonora desert. Horny toads may also be kept in a designated wild zoo. Since they don't live well in captive situations, a zoo may not be their best option.

Who do horned toads live with?

Horny toads live on their own.

How long does a horned toad live?

Horny toads live for anywhere between five and eight years.

How do they reproduce?

Most horned toads reproduce by laying eggs, with the exception of short-horned lizards, who reproduce by giving birth to babies. All horned toads, with the exception of the short-horned lizard, reproduce by laying eggs, typically in the months of May to August. A clutch of eggs may have anywhere between three to 45 eggs. From each clutch, only about 2% obtain sexual maturity. Short-horned lizards give birth as opposed to laying eggs, which may be related to their choice of habitat and its higher elevation. Since temperatures are lower at higher altitudes and eggs cannot survive, short-horned lizards have adapted to give birth to live young offspring.

What is their conservation status?

The official conservation status for horned lizards is Least Concern, but some species, like the flat-tailed horned lizard, are protected under state law. Conservation has been sought for Texas horned lizards, which are quickly declining in numbers. Texas horned lizards (Phrynosoma cornutum) are identified as 'species of special concern' in the state of Oklahoma.

Horned Toads Fun Facts

What do horned toads look like?

Horned toads are one of the smallest creatures that occur in nature. They are 2-5 in (5-12.5 cm) long and have flattened, oval bodies. All different species of horned toads have excellent camouflage abilities that give them an advantage in their chosen habitat. Typically found in desert and arid regions, they have red-brown and yellow-gray bodies which help them to blend in with sand and rocks. They have scales on their jaws, and prominent 'horns' on their heads. They also have a short and pointed tail, and their bodies can blow up to twice their size in presence of predators. Because of its appearance resembling a toad, horny lizards are called horny toads.

A horned lizards' natural habitat is the desert and it is known for its camouflage abilities.

How cute are they?

Their tiny frame, spined, and camouflaged body makes this horned lizard (Phrynosoma) very cute. When young, they have very soft skin, which is also an endearing quality.

How do they communicate?

Horned lizards communicate with each other in a distinct manner, by moving their heads up and down, usually when looking to mate with someone.

How big are horned toads?

Horned toads are 2-5 in (5-12.5 cm) long and 1-4 in (2.5-10 cm) tall, which makes them about 35 times smaller than a crocodile.

How fast can a horned toad run?

A horny toad is a solitary creature but can move very quickly when under threat from its predators.

How much do horned toads weigh?

Horned toads weigh about 0.5-2.2 lb (0.23-1 kg).

What are their male and female names of the species?

Males and females are both referred to as horned lizards.

What would you call a baby horned toad?

A baby horned toad does not have a specific name but is referred to as a young horned lizard.

What do they eat?

Horny toads eat beetles and ants, specifically harvester ants.

Are they dangerous?

The horny toad is not a dangerous animal. Although it does squirt blood from its eyes to confuse and blind its predators, it is not venomous.

Would they make a good pet?

Most horned lizards should not be kept as a pet because their numbers are rapidly declining. They do not survive well in captivity, and being adopted as pets is detrimental to their population, especially for the Texas horned lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum).

Did you know...

A horny toad feeds mainly on harvester ants, and less commonly on fire ants. With the harvester ant's population declining due to the urbanization of their habitat, numbers of the horny toad population are also decreasing. Pesticides have also played a role in the decreasing population of the species, by destroying the harvester ants population.

There are about 22 recognized species of horned toads known.

Short-horned lizards can fit in the palm of a child's hand, they are so small!

Short-horned lizards sometimes eat pebbles.

Horned toad care should include providing a sufficient natural habitat for them In fact, having a pet horned toad has been banned in the state of Oklahoma.

One of the most interesting horned toad facts is that they can wriggle sideways to conceal their bodies in the sand.

The desert horned toad is endemic to western parts of America.

Despite their name, Texas horned lizards are found in great numbers in western regions of Oklahoma.

The short-horned lizard does not lay eggs like other species, but live young are born from the parent's body.

Horny lizards exhibit survivalist behavior when they move quickly to hunt or to avoid becoming prey to coyotes, snakes, or other predators.

Human interference in destroying the ant population is proving detrimental to the various species of wild horny toads. The venomous harvester ant diet may also be a contributing factor.

Why do horned toads squirt blood from their eyes?

When predators are approaching, horned lizards shoot blood from near the corner of their eyes to blind and confuse them. The blood also leaves a bad taste in the mouths of its predators such as dogs and coyotes. The blood, however, does not affect birds. The squirt of blood by a horny toad may reach a height of 5 ft (1.5 m)!

How do horned toads survive in the winter?

A horned lizard (Phrynosoma) survives the winter by hibernating underground. They go underground for the whole winter season, even laying eggs there. Their bodies cannot come back up easily if their orientation isn't suitable, meaning if they are belly up or upside down.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other reptiles including the sea dragon, or the bearded dragon.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our horned toad coloring pages.

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