“What kinds of horned lizards are there in New Mexico?”
Horned lizards are sometimes called horned toads, and it’s easy to see why. With their plump bodies, short legs, and bumpy, scaly skin, you could easily mistake one for a toad if you didn’t see its tail!
But these interesting creatures are reptiles, not amphibians, and have fascinating characteristics that separate them from other animals. For example, they have the unique ability to shoot blood from their eyes!
Today, you will learn the 4 kinds of horned lizards found in New Mexico!
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#1. Texas Horned Lizard
- Phrynosoma cornutum
- 2.5 to 5 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
- Coloring can vary from yellow to reddish or gray-brown, with a light stripe on the back.
- In addition to the two long central horns, two rows of spiky scales, called fringe scales, line the sides of the body.
The Texas Horned Lizard is best known for shooting blood from its eyes to defend against predators!
These reptiles are even able to aim the foul-tasting blood directly into the predator’s mouth! Talk about biting off more than you can chew!
Texas Horned Lizards are found in New Mexico in open, sandy land without much plant life. Some cactus or mesquite may be present, but their habitat is mostly rocky with loose soil or sand to burrow in and lay eggs. They can lay clutches of up to 50 eggs at a time!
Texas Horned Lizard Range Map:
Almost the entire diet of the Texas Horned Lizard is made up of ants. However, they do occasionally eat beetles and grasshoppers.
These gorgeous lizards also make popular pets, and unfortunately, they have been released frequently outside of their normal range. Natural populations are threatened because of habitat loss, the introduction of fire ants, and pesticide use.
#2. Greater Short-Horned Lizard
- Phrynosoma hernandesi
- 1.75 to 4.75 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
- Coloring is beige, tan, or reddish, speckled with white. There are large brown blotches on neck and sides.
- Horns are short and stubby, located on the back of the head and to each side.
Greater Short-Horned Lizards prefer to live in New Mexico in shortgrass prairies and the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Their habitat is generally semi-arid, with long dry spells and infrequent, but heavy rain.
Greater Short-Horned Lizard Range Map:
Ants are a primary food source for Greater Short-Horned Lizards, but they have a varied diet. They also eat grasshoppers, beetles, wasps, caterpillars, spiders, and even snails!
This species is one of only two types of horned lizards in New Mexico that gives birth to live young!
And you may not believe this, but they can produce up to 48 babies in one birth!
#3. Round-Tailed Horned Lizard
- Phrynosoma modestum
- 1.5 to 2.75 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
- Coloring ranges from ash white, gray, or light brown to reddish.
- Body shape is very rounded and toad-like, with a slim, round tail.
Round-Tailed Horned Lizards in New Mexico prefer to live in areas with rocky soil, where they camouflage among pebbles and gravel. Trees in their habitat include cedar, mesquite, and ponderosa pine.
Round-Tailed Horned Lizard Range Map:
Though ants are Round-Tailed Horned Lizards’ main food source, they also eat termites, caterpillars, and beetles. Predators of the species include coyotes and birds of prey.
Round-Tailed Horned Lizards can match their coloring with the soil of their habitat!
That is why individuals can be all different shades and colors.
Its most common defensive strategy is to freeze and blend in with the rocks around it! This horned lizard even has a humped back and bumpy skin that helps with this defense.
#4. Regal Horned Lizard
- Phrynosoma solare
- 3 to 4.75 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
- Coloring is light gray, beige, or reddish with a dusky band on either side of the body.
- A single row of fringe scales lines the sides, and the horns are connected at the base of the head.
If you spot a Regal Horned Lizard in New Mexico, you will instantly know how it got its name!
The row of horns on its head meet at the base, so it looks exactly like it’s wearing a crown! Honestly, I see a Disney movie in their future!
Regal Horned Lizard Range Map:
In addition, the Regal Horned Lizard is the largest horned lizard in New Mexico! Its wide, long body and very long horns make it one of the most intimidating lizards as well. Its appearance seems to clearly say, “Stay away from me!”
Like its ferocious appearance isn’t enough, it can also shoot blood from its eyelids into a potential predator’s mouth. This is NOT a lizard you want to mess with!
Do you need additional help identifying horned lizards?
Try this field guide!
Which of these horned lizards have you seen in New Mexico?
Leave a comment below!