Phrynosoma cornutum
(Harlan 1825)

frī-nō-sō-mă — kŏr-nū-tŭm

Species in Need of Information

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

Length in Kansas up to 6 inches. The so-called “horny toad” is flat-bodied yet formidable looking. The head has numerous horns, with two central head spines (behind each eye) being much longer than any of the others. Gray to brown with irregular, paired, dark markings with light outlines on its back. A dark-bordered light line runs down the middle of the back from the neck onto the tail. The belly is cream-colored with numerous small dark brown spots.
Adults normally 64-100 mm (2½-4 inches) in TL; largest specimen from Kansas: female (FHSM 7469) from Stevens County with 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 range: 7 1/8 inches (Conant and Collins, 1998).

The Texas Horned Lizard is found across the southern half of Kansas, the Flint Hills, and Smoky Hills. East of the Flint Hills the taxon persists as scattered, yet locally abundant, relic populations.

(, Museum Voucher) (, Observation) (, Literature Record)
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  • Occurrence Summary:  
  • 753 Total Records 
  • 568 Museum Vouchers 
  • 185 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 (58); Barton (2); Bourbon (2); Butler (5); Chase (9); Chautauqua (7); Clark (57); Comanche (20); Cowley (35); Crawford (1); Dickinson (7); Douglas (6); Edwards (1); Elk (8); Ellis (70); Ellsworth (8); 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 (17); Rooks (4); Rush (1); Russell (60); Saline (5); Sedgwick (2); Seward (13); Smith (4); Stanton (11); Stevens (6); 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). Hartman (1906) examined a specimen that had consumed a great number of small beetles. 
It 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.
Over the past 30 years, southern populations of Texas Horned Lizards have been dramatically declining. Although the culprit leading to the declines has yet to be positively identified, a leading theory correlates their disappearance to the spread of the introduced Red Fire Ant (Solenopsis invicta). This ant was introduced accidentally into the United States around the 1930s and has steadily spread northward. It was first reported in Kansas in 1998; however, there is no evidence that it has become established anywhere in the state. This study found healthy populations in the Smoky Hills, Permian Prairie, and southern High Plains. However, this taxon was conspicuously absent from the Arkansas River valley, and portions of the Flint Hills east. 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.

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
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
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.
1980 Clarke, Robert F. Herptiles and fishes of the western Arkansas River in Kansas. United States Army Corps of Engineers, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 55pp.
1990 Price, Andrew H. Phrynosoma cornutum. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles (469):1-7
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.
1992 Taggart, Travis W. Observations on Kansas amphibians and reptiles Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (88):13-15
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
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.
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
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 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the spring 2002 KHS field trip. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (3):6-7
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
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.
2012 Rohweder, Megan R. Spatial conservation prioritization of Kansas for terrestrial vertebrates. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 151pp.
Account Last Updated:
7/31/2018 1:26:44 PM

Travis W. Taggart © 2020 — Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Fort Hays State University