STAYING ALIVE

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Horned lizards have three main forms of defense: hide, flee, or attack. They have an incredible ability to hold perfectly still, flatten out and blend in with their surroundings. Their color can varies from brown to gray and is often the color of its habitat. They have patterns and a line down their back which serves to confuse predators. Their spots and spikes break up their body into fragments to look like pebbles or jagged rocks.  To avoid predators the lizard can also run and then suddenly freeze everything, including its eyes. To predators that rely on sight, it appears as if the lizard disappeared out of thin air (Manaster).Lizard blending in with rock surroundings. (Paul M. Montgomery)The lizard in a defensive stance. (Wyman Meinzer)

Sometimes it is best to stand and fight. The lizard will turn around and face its opponent and puff itself up. It then appears too round and spiny to be a reasonable meal. Itís most exciting defense is its ability to shoot blood from its eyes. When provoked they will arch their back and close their eyes. Their eyeballs get bigger and protrude and suddenly discharge blood up to four feet! That is exactly what they did, in one study at the University of Texas, when put together with coyotes to test their anti-predator response. When provoked, the lizard shot blood from its eyes at the head of it's attacker, the coyote. The blood irritated the nose, mouth and eyes of the coyote. The coyote wanted nothing to do with the lizard after that. Other coyotes were fed meat mixed with the carcass of Texas horned lizards. The meat had immediate negative affects causing regurgitation of the food. Meat mixed with just blood from the lizard caused no negative affects (Sherbrooke, Wade, and RussellMason).