Phrynosomatidae – Horned lizards

Small lizards found dwelling in hot sandy or rocky deserts

Primarily inhabit the sandy or rocky deserts of the Americas, including regions in Mexico, Southern Canada, and beyond. This family encompasses a wide range of species, each adapted to specific desert habitats and exhibiting unique characteristics.

Formerly known as Scleroporines, Phrynosomatidae includes several notable genera, with Sceloporus being the largest and most diverse. Species within this genus occupy various niches, from sandy dunes to rocky outcrops, and some are even adept climbers, inhabiting trees. Another intriguing group within Phrynosomatidae is Phrynosoma, known as horned lizards or horned toads, characterized by their spiny appearance and remarkable defense mechanism of squirting blood from their eyes to deter predators.

One distinguishing feature of Phrynosomatidae lizards is their reproductive strategy, with most species being viviparous, meaning they give birth to live young, while others are oviparous, laying eggs. This reproductive diversity reflects the adaptability of these lizards to their desert environments.

Phrynosomatidae lizards are further characterized by their unique dental structure, featuring pleurodont teeth. Unlike chameleons and agamids, whose teeth are rooted in sockets, phrynosomatids’ teeth are fused directly to the inner side of their jaws, providing them with specialized tools for feeding and defense.

These lizards play crucial roles in desert ecosystems, serving as both predators and prey. They prey on a variety of insects and other small animals, contributing to population control within their habitats.