Flat-tailed Horned Lizard

Hello Desert Explorers! Today we are going to learn about the Flat-Tailed Horned Lizard! This little reptile is more commonly known as the Horned Toad. He is about 2.5 to 3.5 inches long from snout to vent. He also has 8 horns on the back of his head, so most people and animals don't mess with him. He loves scurrying around in the hot weather and sandy deserts. So if you see him out and about, be careful not to step on him! OUCH!

I am a Flat-Tailed Horned Lizard. I know I look a little scary with all these horns around my head, but I'm not as aggressive as some of my other family members! I am diurnal, which means I am active in the daytime. I am also a very quick runner, which comes in handy when I feel threatened. Fourteen different species of my family are currently recognized, 8 of which are found in the USA and the other 6 spieces of my family are found in small regions in Mexico. Some ancient cultures, such as the people of the Pima Native American community, believe horned lizards can cure them of staying sickness by appealing to my strength and showing their respect to me.


I like sandy deserts and gravel flats with scattered sparse vegetation. I primarily live in the Colorado desert from the Coachella Valley south through the Imperial Valley and west into the Anz-Borrego desert. I can also be found running through the hot deserts in California, Arizona and Mexico. This picture shows my favorite home after a wet Spring in the Imperial Valley.

I eat mostly harvester ants. When I'm a young lizard I can eat about 20 ants a day and feel pretty full. As soon as I'm a full grown adult I can eat up to 100 ants a day! These ants have a special formic acid in their bodies, which is a necessary nutrient for me and my siblings. 

I have a wide oval-shaped body and pointed scales on my upper body and tail. The skin on my back is smooth with small spines. I have 8 horns extend from the back of the head. The two central horns are long, slender and sharp. Long and narrow spines on the lower jaw and two rows of fringe scales on the sides of the body,the bottom row scales smaller than the upper.

I mate in the Spring between the months of April and May. I normally lay one or two clutches of 3-10 eggs in the late Spring in well-drained sandy soil. My eggs take about 3 weeks to hatch, but incubation times will vary between species. Temperature and humidity conditions are crucial to keeping my eggs alive and on schedule for hatching.
I do not not squirt blood from eyes in defense like other horned lizards do!

Today, we are going to make a salt dough habitat! We will start our project by going on a journey outside. On our nature walk, you should collect a small amount of sand, gravel, twigs and other desert items to decorate the habitat you're creating. For an added special effect, try finding some small egg-shaped rocks that you can strategically place. Can you remember how the Flat-Tailed Horned Lizard lays their eggs? 

When you return to the classroom, research some pictures of the habitat on the internet to get some creative and realistic ideas flowing. You will want to make sure you have little hills, plateaus, mountains, and valleys in your habitat. Once you are finished, please tell your classmates what you created and why based on the information you learned about me here.

California Herps - A Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of California

Reptiles of Arizona:

Photo Credits:
California Herps - A Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of California