HORNED LIZARD Blood Squirters

That hiss we’re listening to right now means “stay away.” It’s being made by a horned lizard, a small, desert-dweller which takes it’s name from the rows of spikes which circle its head and the perimeter of its body. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

Life in the desert can be treacherous, and the horned lizard can inflate itself with air or flatten against the earth to either intimidate or elude it’s predators. But sometimes, these tricks fail and this lizard resorts to a dramatic last ploy.

Wade Sherbrooke is the Director of the American Museum of Natural History’s Southwest Research Station in Portal, Arizona.

“They do a remarkable thing that no other animal in the world does. They squirt their blood out of their tear duct, around their eye. And the blood that comes out has a some chemical component that certain kinds of predators find distasteful, specifically members of the canid family– dogs, coyotes, foxes– which are potential predators on these animals. The horned lizard waits; if it’s attacked by a fox, it doesn’t just start shooting at it when the fox walks onto the scene. It waits until basically the fox opens its mouth, puts its mouth around the horned lizard’s head and starts to crunch down on it, boom, it hits him with that blood right in the mouth, and the fox opens its mouth, drops the horned lizard, shakes its head violently from side to side, backs away from the horned lizard.”

This month, horned lizards of the American southwest are in hibernation, but come springtime they’ll be back, facing their predators with a hiss and, if necessary, a squirt of blood.

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

HORNED LIZARD Blood Squirters

Horned lizards have a unique way of warding off predators.
Air Date:12/18/1998
Scientist:
Transcript:

That hiss we're listening to right now means "stay away." It's being made by a horned lizard, a small, desert-dweller which takes it's name from the rows of spikes which circle its head and the perimeter of its body. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

Life in the desert can be treacherous, and the horned lizard can inflate itself with air or flatten against the earth to either intimidate or elude it's predators. But sometimes, these tricks fail and this lizard resorts to a dramatic last ploy.

Wade Sherbrooke is the Director of the American Museum of Natural History's Southwest Research Station in Portal, Arizona.

"They do a remarkable thing that no other animal in the world does. They squirt their blood out of their tear duct, around their eye. And the blood that comes out has a some chemical component that certain kinds of predators find distasteful, specifically members of the canid family-- dogs, coyotes, foxes-- which are potential predators on these animals. The horned lizard waits; if it's attacked by a fox, it doesn't just start shooting at it when the fox walks onto the scene. It waits until basically the fox opens its mouth, puts its mouth around the horned lizard's head and starts to crunch down on it, boom, it hits him with that blood right in the mouth, and the fox opens its mouth, drops the horned lizard, shakes its head violently from side to side, backs away from the horned lizard."

This month, horned lizards of the American southwest are in hibernation, but come springtime they'll be back, facing their predators with a hiss and, if necessary, a squirt of blood.

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.