What is most commonly referred to as the horned toad is a species of lizard
in the family Iguanidae
by the name of Phrynosoma solare
. It is a small animal (total length generally less than 15 cm
) covered with spiky protrusion
s. Its native range is the Sonoran desert which extends across Arizona
and New Mexico
as well as northern Mexico
They are insectivorous, but rely upon ants for the majority of their daily ration. Being adapted for desert living, they require very little water and a great deal of heat.
The characteristic which distinguishes the horned toad from a typical desert lizard is its anti-predator defense. When threatened, the animal goes beyond the typical series of defense mechanisms of head bobbing, arm waving and whatnot. The horned toad can make blood squirt out of its eyes up to a distance of a meter or more. It does this by limiting blood flow from the head until pressure builds up and the capillaries around the eyes burst. As you might imagine, this is a nasty shock for a potential predator, and in the resulting confusion the animal normally makes its getaway.