April 1, 2018 • 1 min
Admired by native peoples for thousands of years, the Texas horned lizard has an array of abilities. It mostly eats ants – lots of them, and most parts of an ant’s body are indigestible, which necessitates a huge stomach. Eating more than two hundred ants per day means exposure out in the open for long periods, and having a ‘heavy’ stomach means that a horned lizard finds it difficult to run away from predators. Instead, it relies on an armory of defences. It has camouflage colouring, with an outline broken up by spines and outgrowths, and it will freeze if a predator approaches. Its horns and spines can pierce the throat of a snake or bird, and it can hiss and blow itself up to look even more fearsome. When it comes to coyotes, foxes, and dogs, a horned lizard’s most spectacular defence is to squirt foul-tasting blood from the sinuses behind its eyes. That usually has the desired effect. But it squirts only when it is provoked, since it risks losing up to one quarter of its blood. Such abilities are, however, no defense against human invasion of its land. Its strange shape and colouring has made it attractive to reptile collectors, and its habit of freezing means that it is prone to being run over.