Friday, March 15, 2013

Short-horned Lizard

Short-horned Lizards are the only horned lizards found in North Dakota, where Erika and I discovered this one in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. In North Dakota, they are only found in badlands of the western tier of counties. Otherwise they range across semiarid and mountainous areas of the Western United States (and barely to Canada, where it is considered to be endangered) into central Mexico. The reptile is more cold tolerant than other species, allowing a distribution into high elevations and northern regions. They subsist on ants, spiders and sowbugs (Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center).

They are often called “horned toads,” but most of my readers are probably aware that horned lizards are not amphibians. Horned lizards give birth to 5 to 48 live young. They are also infamous for squirting blood from their eyes. This defense mechanism is accomplished by an ability of increase blood pressure in its head. According to Wikipedia, foxes, coyotes, and dogs are deterred by the sight of this blood; horned lizards seldom use this defense against people. When disturbed, they can also become more intensely colored. 

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