Saturday, July 2, 2011

Happy Horned Lizard

Saturday, July 2nd, 2011.  Southern California Desert.  104 degrees Fahrenheit, 4:22 pm.
Desert Horned Lizard
 The morning run with Pono three days ago was rewarded by an encounter with Phrynosoma Platyrhinos, or the Desert Horned Lizard.  It has been over a year since I have seen one of these amazing creatures.  I saw it scurrying out of the dirt road, and I stopped the car to take some photos.  Horned lizards are different from other lizards for several reasons.  First of all, horned lizards mostly eat ants.  According to this article, the small body of an ant is made up of a lot of indigestible material, so the lizard needs to eat a lot of ants.  This accounts for the horned lizard's large stomach.  Because of the large stomach, these lizards aren't as sleek and fast as other lizards.  They rely more on their horny bodies and their ability to change color to blend in with their environment for protection.  (notice in these photos how difficult it is to distinguish the horned lizard from the ground.) 

When a predator approaches, a horned lizard is most likely to freeze, relying on its coloring to hide it.  It will also blow its body up, to make its horns more obvious and to make itself look too big to swallow.  It may run in short bursts, as I saw this one do, and then freeze, to confuse the predator.  There are even a few species of the horned lizard that will squirt blood from its eyes to repel canine and feline predators.  (The desert horned lizard is not one of those.)  You can see a video with a Regal Horned Lizard which sprays blood here.  (If you are in to that sort of thing.)  The young horned lizards have smaller horns, and tend to get snapped up quickly, so the horned lizard will lay lots of eggs.  Cool-looking critter.

I am sure many of you are preparing for some fourth of July festivities.  Therefore I won't go on and on.  I will simply leave you with one more painting from the mixed media series and a photo of the native Antelope Ground Squirrel, wish you a happy fourth, and sign off!
Cute little bugger, but they are destructive, too.  They will climb up into your car and chew on important wires.
"Tail Therapy."  Acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 9 x 12 inches.  ©Karine M Swenson 2011

1 comment:

ArtPropelled said...

Intriguing creatures! I've read about horned lizards and saw one for the first time at the snake park/aquarium last year. You certainly see many amazing desert creatures around you, Karine.