This is one regal looking specimen! The Coast Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma blainvillii) may seem like a beach bum but it is a one-lizard army. It likes sunbathing, burying itself in the sand, and snacking…on ants. The Horned Lizard can be found in habitats in the coastal mountains and valleys of Los Angeles County that have open areas with plenty of sunshine and sandy soils perfect for burying. It likes to seek refuge under chaparral shrubs.
The Horned Lizard has many defense tactics to protect itself from predators. Aside from the ability to stay very very still and camouflage into its surroundings, the horns on the Horned Lizard prove to be a very useful defense weapon. The Horned Lizard can definitely hold its own against snakes. The horns on its head and sides of its body make it hard for the snakes to swallow the lizard as it gets lodged in the mouth of the snake. Another defense mechanism that the Horned Lizard deploys is squirting blood into the mouths of predators from a pore near its eye.
More than 90% of the Coast Horned Lizard’s diet consists of ants, particularly native harvester ants. It is imperative that its habitats also support a healthy population of native harvester ants. A significant threat to the Coast Horned Lizard’s diet is the invasive Argentine ants. As the Horned Lizards’ habitats are developed, it brings the Argentine ants. The Argentine ants displace the native ants that are almost the entirety of Horned Lizards’ food source. Studies have shown that Horned Lizards that fed on Argentine ants showed decreased or no growth compared to Horned Lizards that fed on native harvester ants.
The Coast Horned Lizard is a species that is found in Los Angeles County Significant Ecological Areas. Although it is not an endangered or threatened species, the Coast Horned Lizard is affected by the loss of habitat due to development, displacement of native ants by invasive Argentine ants, and proximity to domestic pets.
LA County Dept. of Regional Planning’s SEA Ordinance amendment project is an on-going effort to conserve genetic and physical diversity within LA County by designating biological resource areas that are capable of sustaining themselves into the future. Every Wednesday, we will profile a plant or animal “Ambassador” that makes the SEAs its home. #SEAwednesday
For more information, contact us at:
Environmental Planning & Sustainability Section
Pictures: Joe Decruyenaere
References: Dudek ICF Coast Horned Lizard Species Account