General Description: Small (6 to 16 cm) dorso-ventrally compressed lizard with sharp spines on their body. Most other horned lizards have large, conspicuous spines along the head, but spines in this species are greatly reduced. Limbs and tails are relatively short and lateral spines are present along the lateral edge of the body. Dorsal coloration is variable ranging from gray to shades of brown with small flecks of white, red, or yellow interspersed. Six to eight larger dark blotches are often present on the dorsum.
Behavior: These lizards are often highly sessile, sit-and-wait predators that feed almost exclusively on ants. Crypsis is the primary form of defense of this species, but spines and inflating behaviors can prevent them from being consumed by predators. Additionally, Greater Short-horned Lizards possess the ability to shoot blood from the ocular sinus (next to the eye) to deter predators such as coyotes, foxes, and dogs.
Reproduction: Female lizards are viviparous (birth live young). Little is known about reproduction in this species, but breeding likely occurs after emergence from hibernation and on average 5 to 6 offspring are born in late July. Juvenile individuals are approximately 3 cm in length and weigh 1 g.
Habitat: These lizards can be found in a variety of habitats including short-grass prairies, sagebrush, and open forests. Loose soils are necessary for thermoregulation.
Species Range: This species is found from Alberta, Canada south along the Rocky Mountains to New Mexico and Arizona and into central Mexico.
South Dakota Range: This species is found in the western third of South Dakota, excluding the heavily forested areas of the Black Hills.
South Dakota Status: This species is listed on the South Dakota Natural Heritage Program. Any sightings of this species should be reported to South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (report observation).
Account written by Drew R. Davis and Cameron L. Coke