A Thorny Problem

Horned lizards, commonly called “horny toads”, used to be a common sight in most of the United States. Children of previous generations may have even had one as a pet, these days it is illegal to posses them.  Texas is home to two species; the Texas Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum) and the Short Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma hernandezi). They are both listed as threatened by Texas Parks and Wildlife and a “Species of Concern” by U.S. Fish and Wildlife. The Endangered Species Act provided a category known as “C2” which gave limited protection to species that U. S. Fish and Wildlife considered at risk. That category and its protections was eliminated in 1996. The Wildlife Center receives several of these interesting animals each year. While the Greater Houston area could support isolated populations, these animals were probably “pets” that were surrendered or “set free” to be found by others. The “lucky” Horned lizard arrives at the Wildlife Center dangerously dehydrated and malnourished. Horned lizards are very specialized eaters and as such are exceedingly difficult to maintain in captivity. Their status as threatened by Texas Parks and Wildlife requires Wildlife Rehab and Education notify authorities upon admission. First introduced to Europe in 1651 by the Spaniard Francisco Hernandez, they were considered sacred by the indigenous Indians. Astounded audiences were regaled with stories of blood jetting from the eyes. Fourteen sub-species have been described and eight can be found in the United States. Australia has its own spiny lizard called the Thorny Devil. Biologists originally thought they descended from a common ancestor, but genetic analysis has shown that the two lizards are examples of convergent evolution. Lizards on the two different continents independently evolved similar adaptations to exploit a [...]