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Fragile Legacy

Endangered, Threatened & Rare Animals of South Dakota

Short-horned Lizard(Phrynosoma douglassi)

JPG--species photo species distribution map
Status: State Rare

Description: The short-horned lizard is a small (2.5-5 inches, 64-127 mm) animal with a flat, broad body and a short tail. It has a spiny back and short spiny horns at the rear of its head. It has a brown to gray body with a reddish head, white belly and two rows of irregular dark blotches down the back. A single row of soft spines separates the dorsal and ventral surfaces.

Habitat and Habits: This lizard is indigenous to semi-arid, shortgrass habitats of the northern Great Plains, ranging from semi-arid plains to high mountains. It is usually found in flat, open areas with firm soils, although it may burrow in loose, sandy soil. The short-horned lizard is active during daylight hours from late spring to fall. It eats a variety of invertebrates, including ants, spiders, beetles, snails, grasshoppers and sowbugs. The short-horned lizard is sexually mature at two years, with the female giving birth to 5-36 young. During cold weather, this animal burrows into soil or uses rodent burrows.

The short-horned lizard displays an unusual characteristic of the horned lizards in its ability to eject blood from the corners of its eyes. This is generally thought to be a defensive mechanism, but it is also theorized to be related to temperature regulation.

Distribution: The short-horned lizard is found in the western portions of the Dakotas to northeastern Montana and adjacent Canada, south to eastern Colorado and extreme northeastern Utah. It is reported from Butte, Fall River, Harding, Meade, Perkins and Shannon Counties in South Dakota.

Conservation Measures: This uncommon species is not thought to be in danger from conversion of native habitats to ranching or farming. Inventories are needed to more accurately determine its abundance in South Dakota.

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