Toad lizards

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Toad lizards
Short-horned toad lizard (Phrynosoma douglassi)

Short-horned toad lizard
( Phrynosoma douglassi )

Superordinate : Scale lizards (Lepidosauria)
Order : Scale reptiles (Squamata)
without rank: Toxicofera
without rank: Iguana (Iguania)
Family : Phrynosomatidae
Genre : Toad lizards
Scientific name
Wiegmann , 1828

Toad lizards ( phrynosoma ) are a genus of short-tailed and short-legged lizards from the order of the iguanas . They are characterized by horn-like, defensive appendages on the head and back. These bizarre lizards owe their German name to their toad-like body shape. Your body is 8 to 13 inches long. Toad lizards live in desert areas in Mexico and the southwestern United States. Their diet consists mainly of ants .

Way of life

Toad lizards are solitary animals and meet in nature almost exclusively to mate. The animals are diurnal and spend most of their time looking for or licking ants and other small prey. In their natural habitat, the animals bury themselves in the sand when it rains or when the temperature is cool. When the sun is shining, the head of the toad lizard appears first, the rest of the body remains covered with sand until the animals have reached their preferred temperature. This behavior offers them the opportunity to observe their surroundings in peace and to be optimally camouflaged. Once the animals have warmed up, they go looking for food. At lunchtime, when it gets too hot, the desert toad lizards look for the shade of rocks and bushes or bury themselves in the sand again.

Horned lizard exhibit morphological similarities to in Australia -based Thorny Devil on. Other similarities include some defense and dietary behaviors. Toad lizards, along with their Australian relatives, are an example of convergent evolution .


The toad lizard has several means of defense against attackers; the color scheme is camouflage and roughly corresponds to the colors of their habitat . The first reaction to an attack is paralysis . If the attacker is already too close, she covers short sprints, which are followed by abrupt pauses in order to evade the attacker as a visual target. If that fails, the lizard inflates itself like a puffer fish . The animal is now bigger and possibly uninteresting as food.

Four types have the option of reflex bleeding . Here the lizard bursts vessels at the edge of the eye. Blood collects in a cavity under the eyelid and with the help of muscles it can be sprayed 1.5 meters. This type of defense only works against attackers who are deterred by the smell or taste of the blood, e.g. B. Dogs. It is only used in an extreme emergency, as the blood balance is reduced by around a quarter.

To defend itself against being picked up over the head / neck area, the toad lizard crouches its head so that the spines on the head straighten up. In order to avoid being forked over the body, she presses it firmly against the ground or partially digs it in.



  • Wade C. Sherbrooke: Horned Lizards Handbook - Born Survivors. Reptiles, 2004.
  • Bertrand Baur, Richard R. Montanucci: Toad lizards . Way of life, care, breeding. Herpeton Verlag, Offenbach 1998, ISBN 3-9802892-8-1 .
  • B. Fabian: The southern desert toad lizard Phrynosoma platyrhinos calidiarum (COPE, 1896) - species-appropriate husbandry and breeding by a food specialist. In: Sauria. 35 (1), 2013, pp. 21-30.
  • B. Fabian: Considerations on the diet of toad lizards. In: Reptilia. (Münster) 19 (107), 2014, pp. 24–29.


  1. GA Middendorf III, WC Sherbrooke, EJ Braun: Comparison of Blood Squirted from the Circumorbital Sinus and Systemic Blood in a Horned Lizard, Phrynosoma cornutum. In: The Southwestern Naturalist. 46 (3), 2001, pp. 384-387.
  2. ^ WC Sherbrooke, GA Middendorf III: Blood-Squirting Variability in Horned Lizards (Phrynosoma). In: Copeia. 2001 (4), 2001, pp. 1114-1122.
  3. ^ WC Sherbrooke, GA Middendorf III: Responses of Kit Foxes (Vulpes macrotis) to Antipredator Blood-Squirting and Blood of Texas Horned Lizards (Phrynosoma cornutum). In: Copeia. 2004 (3), 2004, pp. 652-658.

Web links

Commons : Toad Lizard ( Phrynosoma )  - Collection of images, videos and audio files