What kinds of horned lizards are there in Utah?”

common horned lizards in Utah

 

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 2 kinds of horned lizards found in Utah!

 


#1. Greater Short-Horned Lizard

  • Phrynosoma hernandesi

species of horned lizards in utah

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 Utah 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 Utah that gives birth to live young!

 

And you may not believe this, but they can produce up to 48 babies in one birth!

 


#2. Desert Horned Lizard

  • Phrynosoma platyrhinos

types of horned lizards in Utah

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 2.5 to 3.75 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
  • Coloration is brown, tan, reddish, gray, or black. Wavy, dark blotches dot the back and neck.
  • Blunt snout and short horns.

 

As its name suggests, the Desert Horned Lizard prefers the arid climate of sandy flats and dunes in desert regions of Utah. Areas with cactus, creosote, and saltbush are common homes for the Desert Horned Lizard.

 

Desert Horned Lizard Range Map:

 

Desert Horned Lizards have an interesting hidden talent – they’re good dancers!

 

They often perform mating dances that display intricate body movements, including head bobbing, weaving, and tail movements. While some lizards use body movement displays as a sign of aggression, Desert Horned Lizards use their moves most often to attract a mate!

 

One of the easiest ways to find a Desert Horned Lizard is to drive slowly in its habitat in the late afternoon. They’re often seen sunning themselves on the warm pavement!


Do you need additional help identifying horned lizards?

Try this field guide!

 


Which of these horned lizards have you seen in Utah?

 

Leave a comment below!