Threatened but not threatening

Texas horned lizards (commonly called horny toads – but they are not toads) are considered a threatened species by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department but they are only threatening to the ants and other invertebrates that they consume.  They rely heavily on crypsis (camouflage) to avoid predators and often remain frozen in place until a perceived predator approaches too close for comfort.  Then they can move surprisingly quickly but generally move only a short distance and freeze, again, blending into their surroundings.  As a last resort, they rely on their spines to make them difficult to consume and can actually squirt blood from their eyes.  This isn’t harmful but is thought to act as a deterrent to predators.  I have captured and handled a large number of horned lizards and have never experienced this behavior.  I am excited for the day one decides to let me have it!  I’m a biologist, what can I say.  I hope you enjoy the video which was taken near Pantex.  WT has been working on horned lizards at Pantex for over 10 years.  Thanks to Jim Ray for wrangling this lizard for me to photograph and video.  These are beautiful animals that have declined in abundance in much of their range but are still quite common in the Panhandle.

Sorry for the delay in posts but apparently Camtasia and Windows 7 don’t play well together and I am now using Pinnacle.  I hope the learning curve will be steep.  Look for more frequent posts as I become more  familiar with the new software.  Thanks for looking!

4 thoughts on “Threatened but not threatening

  1. I am 22 years old and I have only ever seen two of these in the wild, they seem extremely threatened.

    • Where are you located? In some parts of their range, they have really become uncommon. Here in the Panhandle of Texas they are still quite common but can be difficult to find.

  2. Cool video! I’ve had blood squirted at me by Texas horned lizards a good number of times, and I’ve got the blood-stained pants to prove it! Personally, after working with so many of them, I don’t buy the research that blood squirting is a canid-elicted predator detterent, or that the the blood is foul-tasting. In my experience, it seems to me that your chance of getting squirted is based on how startling the capture was to the lizard and the lizard’s body temperature at time of capture (Warm lizards seem more frequent to squirt, in my opinion. I even see cold individuals presumably trying to shoot blood at me (eyes abnormally bulging), but the body temp just isn’t there). Try running directly at them on a hot road and scooping them up in one, quick motion. That should scare the [blood] out of them! As for the taste, I’ve caught a few lizards who got lucky or had better aim and squirted blood onto my face and into my mouth, and it tastes no different than my own blood. Great to see my fav species getting attention!

    • Thanks for the information Jeremy! However, blog readers, please don’t harass these protected lizards. Jeremy was capturing these under a scientific collection permit and as part of his Master’s research..

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