What do you get when you cross a chameleon, a puffer fish, and a skunk? A Horned Lizard. The Horny Lizard has three lines of defense that it can apply when threatened by a predator. All have the obvious adaptive value of prolonging the life of the lizard and preventing it from becoming another animal's meal. Despite its name, the Horny Lizard only mates once a year. [2] Thus to increase its reproductive success, it is important that the horny lizard is able to survive each year from breeding season to breeding season.

 camo lizard 1[14]camo 2[14]green camo[8]

    The Horny Lizard's main line of defense is to remain hidden. Like many chameleons, the horny lizard has developed an extraordinarily advanced ability to camouflage. The horny lizard can quickly change the color of its skin to match the various grays, reds, yellows, and browns of its desert environment. Its flat, wide body also allows the horny lizard to minimize its shadow by remaining flat to the ground. [3] When noticed by a predator, the horny lizard will sprint a short distance then stop quickly, flattening its body, and remaining motionless. [3] In this way, the horny lizard is often able to "disappear" and confuse its predators.

leafy camo[14]          red [14]

    If its camouflaging ability is not enough to avoid a predator, an unlucky lizard who is captured by a predator will often rely on its second defense mechanism. A captured lizard will employ the defense mechanism of a puffer fish, expanding its lungs and gulping down air to enlarge its spiky body as much as possible. [6] Rather than trying to intimidate predators, by ballooning up in this way, horny lizards attempt to make themselves as difficult to swallow as possible. [4] Occasionally, some predators will find the difficulty of consuming an inflated horny lizard not worth their while and will abandon the captured lizard. Other predators may lose their lives in the attempt to consume an inflated horny lizard, as evidenced by the finding of dead snakes and other predators with horny lizards' spikes protruding  through their throats.

all puffed up [14]   all puffed up [18]

    The last and most interesting defense mechanism of the horny lizard is a technique similar to that of the skunk. Occasionally, when threatened, a horny lizard will squirt blood at its predator from special ducts in its eyes. The blood is not toxic and is limited to a maximum range of about three feet. [4] Why does the horny lizard employ such a strange defense mechanism, especially when blood usually serves to attract predators rather than deter them? It seems this unusual behavior surprises and confuses predators, increasing the lizard's chances of escaping. Furthermore, the blood, though not toxic, is mixed with a noxious chemical that appears to smell and taste bad, as well as irritate the mucous membranes of some predators, especially those of the feline and canid families. [4] Researchers have found that horny lizards are more likely to employ this defense mechanism when threatened by felines and canids such as coyotes, wolves, bobcats, and wild or domestic cats and dogs. [1] The lizard aims the stream of blood at the predator's nose and mouth. In response, the predator usually drops the lizard and attempts to wipe the blood from its mouth, allowing ample time for the lizard to again disappear into the desert sands, in the hopes of surviving for another breeding season. [1]  

blood squirt [11bloody_liz [1]