The Regal Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma solare) is a cold-blooded reptile that is found mostly in the Sonoran desert area of the United States. They generally live in southeastern Arizona in elevations from 900 feet to 4500 feet. These lizards love hot, dry, sandy habitats where they can blend right in with their surroundings.
What Regal Horned Lizards Look Like
Horned lizards are reddish brown, tan or gray but can change the intensity of their color from dark to light to camouflage themselves. An adult Regal Horned Lizard is only about 4.6 inches long with a flat, wide body and a short tail. Flat, dagger-like horns are arranged around the back of the lizard's head, it has pointed scales in a random pattern on its back and a fringe of scales on each side of its body, with more scales covering its legs. These scales are very useful to the lizard, not only as protection but also in certain daily tasks.
How Lizards Use Their Scales
The scales on this horned lizard's sides come in handy when night begins to fall, the air starts to cool, and it's time for the Regal Horned Lizard to go to bed. First, this lizard burrows into the soft sandy soil by pushing its nose into the sand and wiggling forward to create a furrow.
Once it has the furrow started, the lizard flattens its body and uses the scales on its sides like little shovels, digging down into the sand, sometimes as deep as three to four inches, and covering itself with sand. Since lizards are cold-blooded and take their body temperature from their surroundings, by burrowing into the ground the lizard will be able to stay warm in the cooler night air.
Morning in the Desert
When morning comes on warm days, the little horned lizard comes out of its burrow and basks in the sun until its body temperature rises to a suitable level. At this point, the lizard begins foraging for its favorite food, Harvester Ants. The Regal Horned Lizard may also eat beetles or other small insects, but the ants generally make up about 90 percent of its daily diet when available. The horned lizard dines much like a toad, crawling among the ants and flicking its sticky tongue out to gather them into its mouth.
Regal Horned Lizard Mating Season
The mating season for the Regal Horned Lizard, as well as for most other horned lizards, is the spring and summer, usually from late April through June. After mating, eggs are laid from late July to early August. Once laid, the eggs are on their own and when they hatch in September or October, the hatchlings often immediately burrow into the ground for protection. Without a parent around to help them, the baby lizards must also begin foraging for food right away.
How Regal Horned Lizards Protect Themselves
Regal Horned Lizards have several avenues of protection when stalked by a predator. They may run and then turn and hiss at their pursuer, they may simply play dead and hope the predator does not see them, they may rely on their coloring to camouflage them, or they can puff up their bodies and hope to intimidate the predator with their mean-looking horns.
But the most exciting thing a Regal Horned Lizard may decide to do is to suddenly spray blood from its eye at the predator. This will certainly come as a shock to the hunter as well as irritating its mucous membranes and leaving a bad taste in its mouth. Most often, at this point the predator will either run away or at least be so startled that the Regal Horned Lizard can escape.
The Regal Horned Lizard is able to do this unlikely deed by restricting the blood flow as it leaves its head thus increasing the blood pressure which in turn ruptures tiny capillaries around the lizard's eyelids. The lizard then squirts the blood at its pursuer. Startling as it seems, the Regal Horned Lizard can actually squirt blood from its eye up to five feet away.
Seemingly plain creatures are all around, but some of them are able to do amazing things. The ability of the Regal Horned Lizard to squirt blood from the eye to deter a predator has to be classed as such an act.