TEXAS HORNED LIZARD
Phrynosoma cornutum (Harlan 1825)
frī-nō-sō-mă — kŏr-nū-tŭm


Conservation Status:

State: None

Federal: None
NatureServe State: S4 - Apparently Secure
NatureServe National: N4 - Apparently Secure
NatureServe Global: G4 - Apparently Secure
CITES: None

Adult Texas Horned Lizard from Chase County.  © Mark Herff.
An adult Texas Horned Lizard from Barber County, Kansas. © Travis W. Taggart.
An adult Texas Horned Lizard from Ellsworth County, Kansas. © Lisa Wehrly.
Image © Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH..
An adult Texas Horned Lizard.
An adult Texas Horned Lizard from Stanton County. © Travis W. Taggart.

Description:
HARMLESSLY TOXUNGENIC: The Texas Horned Lizard is distinctive. The so-called “horny toad” is flat-bodied yet formidable looking. The head is relatively small and has eight large horns, with two central head spines (behind each eye at the back of the head) being much longer than any of the others. The dorsal ground color is gray, tan, yellow, brown, or red with four pairs of circular, dark markings on either side of a dark-bordered white dorsal stripe that runs from the back of the head onto the tail. The two blotches just behind the head being appreciably larger. The dorsal blotches are outlined in white or yellow laterally and anteriorly. A dark-bordered light line runs down the middle of the back from the neck onto the tail. There are two horizontal rows of white spines along the lateral edge of the body (between the front and hind legs). The tail is relatively small. The belly is covered with small granular scales (no spines) and is white to yellow with numerous small diffuse dark brown spots.
Adults normally 64-100 mm (2½-4 inches) in TL. Females grow larger than males. The largest specimen from Kansas is a female (FHSM 7469) from Stevens County with a SVL of 90 mm and a TL of 123 mm (4½ inches) collected by Travis W. Taggart and Curtis J. Schmidt on 31 May 2002; maximum length throughout the range: 7 1/8 inches (Conant and Collins, 1998).

Distribution:
The Texas Horned Lizard is locally abundant across much of Kansas. It avoids most of the High Plains north of the Arkansas River basin, northeast Kansas east and north of the Blue and Kansas rivers. Areas of peak abundance include the Smoky Hills (between the Dakota Sandstone and the Fort Hays Limestone), the Flint Hills south of Pottawatomie County, the Cross Timbers, the Red Hills, and the High Plains south of the Kansas River.
Range-wide the Texas Horned Lizard is found from north-central Kansas to southeast Arizona, southeast (east of the Sierra Madre Occidental) to northern Veracruz, Mexico, then along the Gulf of Mexico coast to southeast Texas and north to southwest Missouri and east central Kansas. There many reports of this species from elsewhere in the United States that likely represent released or escaped pets.
(, Museum Voucher) (, Observation) (, Literature Record)
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  • Occurrence Summary:  
  • 788
    Records 
  • 599
    Museum Vouchers 
  • 189
    Other Observations 
Some county occurrences indicated below may be too imprecise to map above.
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences):
Allen (9); Anderson (1); Atchison (1); Barber (75); Barton (5); Bourbon (2); Butler (5); Chase (9); Chautauqua (7); Clark (57); Cloud (1); Comanche (22); Cowley (35); Crawford (1); Dickinson (7); Douglas (6); Edwards (1); Elk (8); Ellis (70); Ellsworth (11); Ford (2); Geary (13); Gove (1); Grant (1); Greenwood (13); Hamilton (3); Harper (11); Harvey (3); Hodgeman (1); Johnson (1); Kearney (1); Kingman (4); Kiowa (21); Labette (9); Lincoln (7); Lyon (3); Marion (1); McPherson (5); Meade (64); Mitchell (3); Montgomery (4); Morton (58); Osborne (7); Ottawa (7); Phillips (3); Pratt (23); Riley (18); Rooks (4); Rush (1); Russell (67); Saline (5); Sedgwick (2); Seward (13); Smith (4); Stanton (11); Stevens (7); Sumner (3); Trego (5); Unknown (25); Wabaunsee (4); Wilson (10);

Natural History:
This lizard is active by day and spends most of its time at ground level searching out small invertebrate prey (particularly Harvester Ants [Pogonomyrmex spp.]). Hartman (1906) examined a specimen that had consumed a great number of small beetles. 
Texas Horned Lizards are toxungenic (toxin delivered to body surface without accompanying wound). Texas Horned Lizards produce toxins that renders them distasteful to canids (dogs). Their antipredator toxins are carried in the circulating blood and can be purposefully squirted from the rear corner of each eye socket in response to a predation attempt (Sherbrooke and Middendorf, 2004).
The Texas Horned Lizard retreats to shade to escape the heat during mid-day and may burrow into loose soil at night. When a warm Texas Horned Lizard is picked up, it may emit a stream of blood from the back of the eyes. This significance of this behavior is not understood.
Breeding occurs in late spring upon emergence from hibernation. Females lay eggs in burrows.
Ants make up the major part of this lizard's diet, however other small insect and spiders are also consumed.
Burt and Hoyle (1935) reported a newly-captured female Texas Horned Lizard from Cowley county, Kansas, that laid seven yellowish eggs while it was kept in a sunny location at a window on 5-6 June 1933. The eggs hatch from mid-July through August.


Occurrence Activity:
White dates indicate there is at least a single recorded occurrence on that date. The darker blue a date is, the greater the relative number of observations for that date.
Observation Type: (of recorded types)
Remarks:
The Texas Horned Lizard was first reported from Kansas in 1898.
Over the past 40 years, populations of Texas Horned Lizards in Texas have dramatically declined. Although the culprit leading to the decline has yet to be positively identified, a leading theory correlates their disappearance to the spread of the introduced Red Fire Ant (Solenopsis invicta) and the concomitant reduction of the the native ants due to the pesticides used to control Red Fire Ants. The Red Fire Ant was introduced accidentally into the United States around the 1930s and has steadily spread northward. Red Fire Ants are not established within Kansas and Kansas populations of Phrynosoma cornutum are stable.
Platt (1985, 1998) reported the absence of Texas Horned Lizards during his studies of Harvey County populations over 40+ years, despite there being a historical record for the area. This pattern of disappearance is similar to that shown by the Lesser Earless Lizard, albeit somewhat delayed. Further survey work is needed especially in those areas specimens were not found during this study. The continued monitoring of this species should also be a priority.


Bibliography:
1857 Hallowell, Edward. Notice of a collection of reptiles from Kansas and Nebraska presented to the Academy of Natural Sciences, by Doctor Hammond, U. S. A. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia 8():238-253
1859 Hallowell, Edward. Reports of Explorations and Surveys, to Ascertain the Most Practicable and Economical Route for a Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean Vol. X, Part IV, No. 1, Washington, D. C. 1-27pp.
1882 Yarrow, Henry C. Check list of North American Reptilia and Batrachia with catalogue of specimens in U. S. National Museum. Bulletin of the United States National Museum (24):1-249
1886 Ebbutt, Percy G. Emigrant Life in Kansas Swan Sonnenschein and Company, Paternoster Square, London. 237pp.
1900 Cope, Edward D. The crocodilians, lizards and snakes of North America. Pages 153-1270 in Report of the U. S. National Museum for the Year Ending June 30, 1898 , Washington, D. C. pp.
1906 Hartman, Frank A. Food habits of Kansas lizards and batrachians. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 20():225-229
1920 Taylor, Edward H. The Lizards of Kansas with Notes on Habits. Thesis. University of Kansas, Lawrence. 117pp.
1928 Burt, Charles E. Insect food of Kansas lizards with notes on feeding habits. Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 1(3):50-68
1928 Burt, Charles E. Some distributional and ecological records of Kansas reptiles. Transactions of the Academy of Science St. Louis 26():186-208
1929 Taylor, Edward H. List of reptiles and batrachians of Morton County, Kansas, reporting species new to the state fauna. University of Kansas Science Bulletin 19(6):63-65
1933 Stejneger, Leonhard and Thomas Barbour. A Checklist of North American Amphibians and Reptiles. 3rd Edition. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. pp.
1934 Brennan, Lawrence A. A check list of the amphibians and reptiles of Ellis County, Kansas. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 37():189-191
1934 Burt, Charles E. and W. L. Hoyle. Additional records of the reptiles of the central prairie region of the United States. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 37():193-216
1935 Brennan, Lawrence A. Notes on the Distribution of Amphibia and Reptilia of Ellis County, Kansas. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 114pp.
1935 Burt, Charles E. Further records of the ecology and distribution of amphibians and reptiles in the middle west. American Midland Naturalist 16(3):311-366
1935 Burt, Charles E. and William L. Hoyle. Additional records of the reptiles of the central prairie region of the United States Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 37():193-216
1937 Brennan, Lawrence A. A study of the habitat of reptiles and amphibians of Ellis County, Kansas. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 40():341-347
1950 Smith, Hobart M. Handbook of Amphibians and Reptiles of Kansas. University of Kansas, Museum of Natural History, Miscellaneous Publication (2):336
1953 Schmidt, Karl P. A Check List of North American Amphibians and Reptiles. 6th Edition. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois. 280pp.
1956 Loomis, Richard B. The chigger mites of Kansas (Acarina, Trombiculidae). University of Kansas Science Bulletin 37():1195-1443
1962 Gish, Charles D. The Herpetofauna of Ellis County, Kansas. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 34pp.
1965 Clarke, Robert F. Lizards in Kansas. Kansas School Naturalist 11(4):1-16
1974 Collins, Joseph T. Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas University of Kansas Museum of Natural History Public Education Series (1):283 pp
1974 Karns, Daryl, Ray E. Ashton, Jr., and Thomas Swearingen. Illustrated Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas: An Identification Manual. University of Kansas Publications Museum of Natural History Public Education Series(2):viii + 18
1975 Capron, Marty. A trip through the Kansas Flint Hills. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (8):4-5
1976 Rundquist, Eric M. Field checklist (of) amphibians and reptiles of Kansas. Kansas Herpetological Society, Lawrence. pp.
1978 Capron, Marty. Four county collecting raid: A south central Kansas herping saga. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (26):9-12
1978 Curl, Richard L. Final Environmental Statement: Milford Lake Kansas operation and maintenance. US Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas City District. 158pp.
1980 Clarke, Robert F. Herptiles and fishes of the western Arkansas River in Kansas. United States Army Corps of Engineers, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 55pp.
1982 Collins, Joseph T. Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas. 2nd edition. University of Kansas Museum of Natural History Public Education Series (8):
1985 Miller, Larry L. KHS 1985 field trip to Kirwin Reservoir. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (61):11-12
1986 Collins, Joseph T. New records of amphibians and reptiles in Kansas for 1985. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (63):4
1987 Simmons, John E. September 1987 field trip report. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (69):42894
1988 Collins, Joseph T. New records of amphibians and reptiles in Kansas for 1987. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (71):13-19
1988 Miller, Larry L. Harper County KHS field trip well attended. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (72):5-6
1988 Nulton, Michael T. and Michael S. Rush. New county records of amphibians and reptiles in Gray County, Kansas. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (74):10-12
1989 Collins, Joseph T. First Kansas herp counts held in 1989. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (77):11-
1990 Collins, Joseph T. Maximum size records for Kansas amphibians and reptiles. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (81):13-17
1990 Collins, Joseph T. Results of second Kansas herp count held during April-May 1990. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (81):10-12
1990 Price, Andrew H. Phrynosoma cornutum. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles (469):1-7
1991 Collins, Joseph T. New records of amphibians and reptiles in Kansas for 1990. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (83):7-13
1991 Collins, Joseph T. Results of third Kansas herp count held during April-May 1991. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (85):9-13
1991 Collins, Joseph T. and Suzanne L. Collins. Reptiles and Amphibians of the Cimarron National Grasslands, Morton County, Kansas. U. S. Forest Service, Elkhart, Kansas. 60pp.
1991 Conant, Roger and Joseph T. Collins. Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. 3rd ed. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. pp.
1992 Collins, Joseph T. New records of amphibians and reptiles in Kansas for 1991. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (87):12-17
1992 Rundquist, Eric M. Results of the KHS 1992 fall field trip. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (90):4
1992 Taggart, Travis W. Observations on Kansas amphibians and reptiles Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (88):13-15
1992 Taggart, Travis W. Observations on Kansas amphibians and reptiles. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (88):13-15
1993 Collins, Joseph T. and Suzanne L. Collins. Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas. Third Edition. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Lawrence. 397pp.
1994 Collins, Joseph T. New records of amphibians and reptiles in Kansas for 1993. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (97):15-19
1994 Rundquist, Eric M. Results of the sixth annual KHS herp counts held 1 April-31 May 1994. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (97):5-14
1996 Dundee, Harold A. Some reallocations of type localities of reptiles and amphibians described from the Major Stephen H. Long Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, with comments on some of the statements made in the account written by Edwin James.  Tulane Studies in Zoology and Botany 30():75–89
1996 Miller, Larry L. Results of the KHS 1995 fall field trip. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (103):3
1996 Rakestraw, J. Spring herp counts: A Kansas tradition. Reptile & Amphibian Magazine (March-April):75-80
1997 Rundquist, Eric M. Addendum to 1997 KHS herp counts. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (109):14-15
1997 Rundquist, Eric M. Results of the ninth annual KHS herp counts held 1 April-31 May 1997. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (108):12-17
1998 Conant, Roger and Joseph T. Collins. Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. 3rd ed, expanded. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. pp.
1998 Henke, Scott E. and Wm. Scott Fair Management of Texas Horned Lizards Caesar KIeberg Wildlife Research Institute, Kingsville, Texas. 7pp.
1998 Platt, Dwight R. Monitoring population trends of snakes and lizards in Harvey County, Kansas. Final Report. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt, Kansas. 42pp.
1998 Rundquist, Eric M. Results of the tenth annual KHS herp counts for 1998, held 1 April-31 May. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (112):11-18
1999 Rundquist, Eric M. Kansas Herpetological Society herp counts: A 10 year summary and evaluation. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (115):42962
2000 Rundquist, Eric M. Results of the eleventh and twelfth annual KHS herpetofaunal counts for 1999-2000, held 1 April-31 May. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (122):11-16
2000 Taggart, Travis W. Biogeographic analysis of the reptiles (Squamata) in Ellis County, Kansas. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (121):7-16
2000 Taggart, Travis W. KHS spring field trip sets record for attendance. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (120):5-5
2001 Kretzer, Justin E. and Jack F. Cully, Jr. Effects of Blacktailed Prairie Dogs on reptiles and amphibians in Kansas shortgrass prairie. Southwestern Naturalist 46(2):171-177
2001 Reeder, Tod W., and Richard R. Montanucci. Phylogenetic analysis of the horned lizards (Phrynosomatidae: Phrynosoma): Evidence from mitochondrial DNA and morphology. Copeia 2001(2):309-323
2001 Rundquist, Eric M. Results of the thirteenth annual KHS herp counts for 2001, held 1 April-30 June. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (125):13-16
2002 Collins, Joseph T., Travis W. Taggart Curtis J. Schmidt, and Suzanne L. Collins. Geographic distribution: Phrynosoma cornutum. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (2):10-11
2002 Kingsbury, Bruce and Joanna Gibson. Habitat Management Guidelines for Amphibians and Reptiles of the Midwest. Publication of Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, Address not given. 152pp.
2002 Rundquist, Eric M. Natural history of the Night Snake, Hypsiglena torquata, in Kansas. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (4):16-20
2002 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the spring 2002 KHS field trip. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (3):6-7
2003 Collins, Joseph T. New records of amphibians and reptiles in Kansas for 2002. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (5):13-16
2003 Miller, Larry L. Sumner County herp count. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (7):10
2003 Platt, Dwight R. Lizards and snakes (Order Squamata) of Harvey County, Kansas. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (6):13-20
2003 Suleiman, G. Fort Riley herpetofaunal count. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (5):11-12
2004 Hodges, Wendy L. Evolution of viviparity in horned lizards (Phrynosoma): testing the cold-climate hypothesis. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 17():1230–1237
2004 Schmidt, Curtis J. Attempted predation on a hatchling Texas Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum) by an adult Plains Leopard Frog (Rana blairi). Journal of Kansas Herpetology (10):12
2004 Sherbrooke, Wade C. and George A. Middendorf III. Responses of Kit Foxes (Vulpes macrotis) to antipredator blood-squirting and blood of Texas Horned Lizards (Phrynosoma cornutum) Copeia 2004(3):652-658
2005 Taggart, Travis W. and Curtis J. Schmidt Phrynosoma cornutum (Texas Horned Lizard) new state maximum length Journal of Kansas Herpetology (14):10
2005 Taggart, Travis W. and Curtis J. Schmidt. Geographic distribution: Phrynosoma cornutum. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (14):11
2005 Taggart, Travis W. and Curtis J. Schmidt. Life history notes: Phrynosoma cornutum. New state maximum length. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (14):10
2006 Taggart, Travis W. Distribution and status of Kansas herpetofauna in need of information. State Wildlife Grant T7. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt. vii + 106pp.
2008 Taggart, Travis W. KHS 2008 spring field trip. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (25):2-3
2009 Murrow, Daniel G. KHS 2009 spring field trip. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (29):42769
2010 Collins, Joseph T., Suzanne L. Collins, and Travis W. Taggart. Amphibians, Reptiles, and Turtles of Kansas Eagle Mountain Publishing., Provo, Utah. 400pp.
2010 Miller, Larry L. 2010 Investigation of the Checkered Garter Snake in Kansas with notes on other Amphibians, Reptiles, and Turtles encountered. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt, Kansas. 31pp.
2010 Murrow, Daniel G. Kansas Herpetological Society spring field trip. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (33):2-3
2011 Taggart, Travis W. Kansas Herpetological Society 2011 spring field trip to beheld in Chautauqua County. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (37):5-7
2011 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the KHS Spring Field Trip to Chautauqua County. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (38):2-4
2012 Rohweder, Megan R. Spatial conservation prioritization of Kansas for terrestrial vertebrates. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 151pp.
2013 Mardis, Dexter and Kevin Scott. 2013 Kansas Herpetofaunal Counts. Collinsorum 2(3/4):7
2013 Taggart, Travis W. KHS 2012 Summer Field Trip to Meade County State Park. Collinsorum 2(3/4):3
2013 Taggart, Travis W. KHS 2013 Summer Field Trip to Coldwater Lake, Comanche County. Collinsorum 2(3/4):5
2014 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the 2014 KHS Spring Field Trip to Barber County Collinsorum 3(2-4):11
2014 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the 2014 KHS summer field trip to Morton County and adjacent Colorado, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. Collinsorum 3(2-4):12
2015 Taggart, Travis W. Spring Field Trip to the Greenhorn Limestone of Russell County. Collinsorum 4(3):2
2016 Powell, Robert, Roger Conant, and Joseph T. Collins. Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston. 494pp.
2016 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the KHS ‘Fall’ field trip to Barber County. Collinsorum 5(2-3):6-7
2016 Taggart, Travis W. Spring 2016 KHS field trip to Clark County was a soggy success. Collinsorum 5(2-3):2-3
2017 Mardis, Dexter R. Results from three Herpetofaunal tallies at Wichita State University’s Youngmeyer Ranch in Northwestern Elk County. Collinsorum 6(1):8-10
2017 Schmidt, Curtis J. Herp Count: Southeast Ellis County. Collinsorum 6(2-3):9
2017 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the 2017 KHS Spring Field Trip to Elk County, Kansas. Collinsorum 6(2-3):6-8
2017 Taggart, Travis W. and J. Daren Riedle. A Pocket Guide to Kansas Amphibians, Turtles and Lizards. Great Plains Nature Center, Wichita, Kansas. 69pp.
2018 Houck, Mike. Herp Count: Fort Riley Military Installation Collinsorum 7(1):17
2020 Riedle, J. Daren. Revisiting Kansas Herpetological Society field trip and Herp Count data: Distributional patterns and trend data of Kansas amphibians and reptiles. Collinsorum 9(1):7-16
Account Last Updated:
7/29/2020 1:30:23 PM