Horned Lizard

Dallas Zoo Welcomes Iconic Texas Hatchlings


Dallas Zoo recently welcomed their first ever clutch of Texas Horned Lizard hatchlings – 39 babies in all! Also known as “horny toads”, Texas Horned Lizards, were once quite common, but are now disappearing.

This threatened species has vanished in East and Central Texas, and is now decreasing in North Texas, too. While these babies may be only the size of a penny now, they’re helping ensure the survival of this Texas icon.


3_11222491_10153085148686819_2943863045877479041_oPhoto Credits: Dallas Zoo

The Dallas Zoo has taken an active role in the protection of this threatened reptile. The Dallas Zoo's Texas Horned Lizard Conservation page (http://dzmconservation.wix.com/texashornedlizards#!) provides great information and resources.

Horned Lizards, also known as "horny toads", represent a unique group of lizards that inhabit the southern United States and northern Mexico. The Texas Horned Lizard, Phrynosoma cornutum, is perhaps the most recognizable species of Horned Lizard. It is the largest North American native species of Horned Lizard (Family: Phrynosomatidae) and has the widest distribution of any other Horned Lizard species in the United States.

Once extremely common, they are now in decline throughout much of their range. The Texas Horned Lizard is perhaps the most threatened member of this group, with estimated population declines of greater than 30% across its range (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, and northern Mexico) and even higher in Texas. Populations have disappeared in East and Central Texas, and are decreasing in North Texas as well.

Staff of the Dallas Zoo is studying the life history of Texas Horned Lizards at the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch. The Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch is 4,700 acre preserve located in Fisher County, Texas. By collecting lizard life history data (including but not limited to population densities, habitat preferences, diet, sex ratios, activity patterns, etc.) they hope to shed valuable light on the ecology of this threatened native Texan.

Leaping Lizards in L.A. and Tampa Bay

My rock! Baby Giant Horned Lizard at the LA ZooToday we bring you back-to-back reptile babies, which means half of our readership just got really excited and the other half just got an uninvited lunchtime surprise! Huge kudos to the L.A. Zoo for breeding the first ever Giant Horned Lizards to be successfully hatched at a North American zoo. “This clutch is a milestone event for the L.A. Zoo and zoos across the continent. These lizards will serve as ambassadors for their species and aid in the study of this species,” said Los Angeles Zoo Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians Ian Recchio. When they first hatched, the lizards weighed about one gram and were roughly the size of a nickel. “Giant” is a relative term, so don’t expect them to grow too large; these fierce-looking lizards will reach a maximum length of about 10 inches when full grown, large for this family of lizards.

Fresh out of the egg Giant Horned Lizard hatchling says hello

King of the hill, horned lizard styleAbove photo credits: Tad Motoyama / L.A. Zoo

Though little is known about the giant horned lizard, they are one of the species that is able to squirt blood out of their eyes as a defense mechanism. While this is an interesting and unique trait, Recchio says “L.A. Zoo reptile keepers haven’t witnessed it first hand and that’s a good thing. When horned lizards perform this action it means they are under stress and feel threatened. Since the lizards haven’t displayed this behavior at the Zoo, it indicates they are comfortable in their environment here.”

Mexican Beaded LizardStay away from my stick! - Mexican Beaded Lizard at Busch Gardens Tampa BayPhoto credits immediately above and below: Matt Marriott / Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Next we have a baby Mexican Beaded Lizard, one of only two species of venomous lizards in North America, hatched on January 16, 2011 at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. Beaded lizards have venom glands in their lower jaws that allow them to chew venom directly into their prey. There is no anti-venom to counteract a beaded lizard bite. Zoo staff named the new beaded lizard "Gaspar" to honor Tampa’s annual pirate festival Gasparilla, during which beads are tossed out from parade floats.

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