What’s a lizard going to do, when its first, second and third lines of defense, fail? Why, shoot blood at its enemies, of course. Out of their eyes.
The horned toad, is one of the few species able to perform this rather unique stunt. And they aren’t even a toad. It’s actually a lizard, with a short, bloated body shape that gives it the appearance of that ugly amphibian. However, like many other things in nature, that short body has a purpose. It allows the lizard to flatten itself in the wild, casting less of a shadow on the ground, so it blends into the environment.
Commonly found in Texas, the horny toad is dressed in typical lizard style, with skin ranging from brown to gray in color, and sometimes with blotches. The skin comes accessorized with nasty looking spikes, which can ruin the appetite of hungry opportunists looking for lunch. Being a cold-blooded creature, they’re normally found in hotter spots, although some varieties live in mountainous habitats.
The lizards are king of the “chicken” game, remaining frozen in place, while predators pass them by. Those who pause to look, may be treated to a display of huffing and puffing, whereby the horny toad/lizard blows up their body to look threatening. But when their enemies do spot them, and playing “statue” doesn’t work, the lizard reserves their last ditch effort for a do-or-die situation when trapped and about to be killed.
Whether it is a fear reaction, or purposeful tactic, the lizard increases the blood pressure in their head, until small blood vessels rupture, causing blood to squirt from their tear ducts. While not all horny toads can do this, it’s likely enough to make some predators go looking for an alternative diet.