6- The pygmy short-horned lizard (Phrynosoma douglasii)
The pygmy short-horned lizard (Phrynosoma douglasii) is a species of small horned lizard that occurs in the northwestern United States. In the past it also occurred in adjacent Canada. Like other horned lizards, it is often called a "horned toad" or "horny toad," but it is not a toad at all. It is a reptile, not an amphibian.
Pygmy short-horned lizard
Conservation status :
Least Concern (IUCN 3.1)
Scientific classification :
Binomial name :
The specific name, douglasii, is in honor of Scottish botanist David Douglas.
The pygmy short-horned lizard is often mistaken for its close relative the greater short-horned lizard (P. hernandesi ) which has the same basic body type consisting of small pointed scales around the head and back. Until recent mitochondrial DNA evidence, the greater short-horned was considered to be the same species as the pygmy short-horned. They are now considered distinct species with the pygmy short-horned lizard occupying the northwest portion of the United States and extreme southern British Columbia (now extirpated from Canada).When placed together the two are easily distinguished at full size, the pygmy short-horned lizard being much smaller. The greater short-horned lizard is a highly variable species with different geographic populations exhibiting differences in color, pattern, and size, with some authorities describing five subspecies.
The pygmy short-horned lizard ranges in size from 1.25–2.5 in (3.2–6.4 cm) in snout-to-vent length (SVL) and is a flat-bodied, squat lizard with short spines crowning the head. They have a snub-nosed profile and short legs. The trunk is fringed by one row of pointed scales, while the belly scales are smooth. The color is gray, yellowish, or reddish-brown, and there are two rows of large dark spots on the back. When threatened or aggressive, their colors become more intense.
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Pygmy Short-horned Lizards in the Wild
Care Articles :
THE PYGMY SHORT-HORNED LIZARD
courtesy to :
By: Alan St. John - Jul 07, 2014
Hikers following Central Oregon trails through dry, sandy areas sometimes see tiny, rotund lizards that have a stubby tail and wonder, "What the heck is that odd critter?"
What they've encountered is a reptile that's unique to our region: the pygmy short-horned lizard (Phrynosoma douglasii).
There are twelve to fifteen recognized species of horned lizards native to North America, the tally sometimes differing according to the opinion of the taxonomist consulted. All have a rather bizarre, spiny appearance that causes them to resemble a diminutive dinosaur or dragon. Because of a rather plump body shape, they are sometimes mistakenly called "horned toads", but they're of course not an amphibian. Most kinds have a distinctive crown of relatively long spines at the rear of the head. But as the name implies, the short-horned lizard has mere pointy nubbins on its cranium. And it's truly a pygmy. Most "large" adults are usually only about two to three inches in total length. If any reptile can be considered cute, it's this dinky species.
Because horned lizards usually match the soil and pebbles where they live, their dorsal coloring varies from grayish-tan to reddish-brown, depending upon the geographic area. In fact, unless a pygmy short-horned lizard moves and catches your eye, it'll probably remain overlooked.
Generally, folks think of finding horned lizards in sandy deserts. The pygmy short-horned lizard indeed ranges throughout much of the open, semi-arid sagebrush-juniper country of the Northwest. But it also occurs in sunny clearings among pine woods on the eastern slope of the Cascade Mountains. Surprisingly, populations even manage to survive along the Cascade crest, nearly to timberline at about 7,000-feet elevation.
Newborn pygmy short-horned lizards. Photo: Al St. John.
In that harsh alpine environment with it's relatively short warm season, these hardy little lizards probably spend more time in hibernation each year than out basking in sunshine. Recent studies indicate that when winter arrives short-horned lizards bury themselves in sand a mere four or five inches deep, freezing solid as an ice-cube for months at a time. Then when the renewing warmth of spring arrives, they thaw out and become active again, dining on their primary food, ants. As an adaptation to a limited high-elevation breeding season, these lizards bear live young rather than laying eggs (ovoviviparous) and have a relatively short reproductive cycle.
In September of 2000, longtime friend and fellow naturalist, Jim Anderson and I hiked to the 5,500-foot summit of Sand Mountain in the Santiam Pass area. Just below the fire lookout tower, we found a petite two-inch female pygmy short-horned lizard on the sun-warmed, volcanic pumice-sand. While Jim took his turn snapping close-up photos of the diminutive animal, I surveyed our surroundings of stunted sub-alpine fir, noble fir and whitebark pine, marveling at the spectacular views of lofty, snowcapped peaks. Not the typical sort of place where one expects to find a warmth-requiring, "cold-blooded" (ectothermic) reptile!
Along with the Deschutes Land Trust's Metolius Preserve, other good locations in Central Oregon to observe pygmy short-horned lizards are in the vicinity of Cold Springs Campground west of Sisters, the shrubby sand flats around Tumalo Reservoir, and at Fort Rock State Park, about seventy miles southeast of Bend.
If you're lucky enough to find one of these interesting Northwest endemic lizards, please don't be tempted to bring it back home for a terrarium pet. With their specialized diet of ants, horned lizards of all species do not fare well in captivity and usually die before long. Besides, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife currently lists the pygmy short-horned lizard as protected, so it's against the law to take one from the wild.
Have you ever seen a pygmy short-horned lizard in the wild? Where?
Other websites :
P. d. brachycercum H.M. Smith, 1942
P. d. douglasii (Bell, 1828)
Species and subspecies:
Species and subspecies: