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September 19, 2011 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Animal of the Week – Horned Lizards

Several species of lizard belonging to the genus Phrynosoma are distributed across the Americas.

These lizards, this week’s AOTW, are commonly known as horned lizards. Due to these lizards’ rounded snout and body, they’re often referred to as horny frogs or toads. But don’t let this fool you.

The distinctive spines around the lizards head are ‘true horns’, as they have a bony core, whilst the spines along its body are made of modified scales. If a predator, such as a coyote or roadrunner, was looking for an easy meal, these spinesmake it look particularly unappealing, acting as an excellent defence. These lizards feed primarily on ants, eating up to 200 per day. This combined with the fact that female horned lizards can carry up to 40 eggs at a time, results in these lizards being relatively slow. As a result, the lizards have built a particularly strong defence system by combining classic camouflage, their aggressive looking spines and some unique behaviour attributes. When really threatened, the horned lizard restricts blood flow to their head, increasing blood pressure, rupturing the blood vessels round the eyes. This allows them to aim a stream of blood directly at their attacker. Obviously this totally grosses the predator out, allowing the horned lizard to make a swift escape.


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