Meet the lizard that squirts blood from its eyes

The blood-squirting ‘toad’ of the desert! With 14 species of the same genus found across the American western deserts, this Texas Horned Lizard is a common but nonetheless strange sight, with an even stranger defence mechanism…

statsThey can squirt blood from their eyes
Along with several others horned lizard species, the Texas horned lizard has evolved one of the strangest defence mechanisms in the animal kingdom: it can raise its blood pressure when it feels threatened, to the point that it can aim and squirt blood from the ducts in its eyes. This is intended to confuse its predators, but the blood also tastes foul and can be toxic to wolves, dogs and coyotes.

It’s called ‘horned toad’, but it’s no amphibian
Horned lizards do look distinctly toad-like, so the confusion is understandable. They have a rounded body with spiny protuberances and, like frogs and toads, they can puff themselves up into a bigger ball-like shape with spines all over it to make themselves harder for any would-be predator to swallow.

Like humans, they produce vitamin D from sunlight
All lizards and cold-blooded reptiles need the heat and warmth of the sun to raise their body temperature and metabolism so that they can function every day. But Texas horned lizards need the action of sunlight on its skin to produce vitamin D, the same way sunlight produces this essential vitamin in our skin.

They go wherever the ants are
Texas horned lizards love harvester ants, and both love the hot weather, so wherever the ants are swarming, the horned lizards aren’t going to be too far away. In fact, this is partly the reason for their decline in some areas: invasive fire ants are taking over native ant territories, but the pesticides used to control them don’t discriminate between the species, so a major food source for the horned lizards is being eliminated as well as poisoning the lizards themselves.

Like humans, they produce vitamin D from sunlight
All lizards and cold-blooded reptiles need the heat and warmth of the sun to raise their body temperature and metabolism so that they can function every day. But Texas horned lizards need the action of sunlight on its skin to produce vitamin D, the same way sunlight produces this essential vitamin in our skin.

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