Pygmy short-horned lizard

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Pygmy short-horned lizard
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Iguania
Family: Phrynosomatidae
Genus: Phrynosoma
P. douglasii
Binomial name
Phrynosoma douglasii
(Bell, 1828)[2]

The pygmy short-horned lizard (Phrynosoma douglasii) is a species of small horned lizard in the family Phrynosomatidae. The species is native to the northwestern United States and adjacent southwestern Canada. Like other horned lizards, it is often called a "horned toad" or "horny toad," but it is not a toad at all. It is a reptile, not an amphibian.[3]


The specific name, douglasii, is in honor of Scottish botanist David Douglas.[4]


The pygmy short-horned lizard is often mistaken for its close relative the greater short-horned lizard (P. hernandesi) which has the same basic body type consisting of small pointed scales around the head and back.[3] Until recent mitochondrial DNA evidence, the greater short-horned lizard was considered to be the same species as the pygmy short-horned lizard. They are now considered distinct species with the pygmy short-horned lizard occupying the northwest portion of the United States and extreme southern British Columbia (now extirpated from Canada).[3] When placed together the two are easily distinguished at full size, the pygmy short-horned lizard being much smaller. The greater short-horned lizard is a highly variable species with different geographic populations exhibiting differences in colour, pattern, and size, with some authorities describing five subspecies. The pygmy short-horned lizard ranges in size from 1.25–2.5 in (3.2–6.4 cm) in snout-to-vent length (SVL) and is a flat-bodied, squat lizard with short spines crowning the head.[5] It has a snub-nosed profile and short legs. The trunk is fringed by one row of pointed scales, while the belly scales are smooth. The colour is gray, yellowish, or reddish-brown, and there are two rows of large dark spots on the back. When threatened or aggressive, its colours become more intense.[citation needed]The pygmy short-horned lizard is also a species at risk in Alberta according to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).

Behavior and ecology[edit]

The diet of P. douglasii varies from different habitats, but mostly among age and sex classes; neonates feed among almost exclusively on ants (89%) while adults consume fewer ants (72%) and yearlings consume the lowest proportion of ants (60%). [6] It is also considered a lizard that tolerates well low temperatures, so it can reach biomes that are not accessible for most other reptiles.[7]


  1. ^ Hammerson, G.A. (2007). "Phrynosoma douglasii ". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2007.RLTS.T64075A12741891.en
  2. ^ Species Phrynosoma douglasii at The Reptile Database
  3. ^ a b c Sherbrooke, Wade C. (2003). Introduction to Horned Lizards of North America. California Natural History Guides. Oakland, California: University of California Press. 191 pp. ISBN 978-0520228276.
  4. ^ Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael. (2011). "Phrynosoma douglasi", p. 75 The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5.
  5. ^ Stebbins, Robert C. (2003). "Phrynosoma douglasii ", pp. 303–304 + Plate 34 + Map 101. in A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians: Third Edition. The Peterson Field Guide Series. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 978-0-395-98272-3.
  6. ^ Lahti, Megan E.; Beck, Daniel D. (April 2008). "Ecology and ontogenetic variation of diet in the pigmy short-horned lizard (Phrynosoma douglasii)". American Midland Naturalist. 159 (2): 327–339. doi:10.1674/0003-0031(2008)159[327:EAOVOD]2.0.CO;2. S2CID 54206550.
  7. ^ "Cold-Blooded and Cold-Tolerant: Finding Reptiles In the North Cascades Ecosystem". North Cascades Institute. 2019.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bell, Thomas (1828). "Description of a new Species of Agama, brought from the Columbia River by Mr. Douglass [sic]". Transactions of the Linnean Society of London 16: 105–107 + Plate X. ("Agama Douglassii [sic]", new species). (in English and Latin).

External links[edit]