The Dallas Zoo has taken an active role in the protection of Texas Horned Lizards, also known as horny toads. Now, they’ve released adorable pictures of the new hatchlings, which will help ensure the survival of this iconic species.
Affectionately called “horny toads”, they are in fact lizards, not moist-skinned toads or frogs. The Texas Horned Lizard, Phrynosoma cornutum, is perhaps the most recognizable species of Horned Lizard. They used to be quite common in Texas, but have greatly decreased in numbers. A University of Texas publication notes:
“Horned lizard populations continue to decline and disappear throughout the southwest despite protective legislation. The species most often noted for declining numbers is the Texas horned lizard which has disappeared from almost half of its geographic range.”
The main cause of their decline has been, as usual, human expansion. Loss of habitat, human eradication of the ant populations upon which the lizards prey, displacement of native ant populations by invading fire ants (aided by synergistic effects of native ant eradication), and predation by domestic dogs and cats all play a role in driving the species out. But the Dallas Zoo wants to stop that, and these 39 babies, while not even bigger than a penny, could play a key role.
Conservationists want to reintroduce their offspring in East and Central Texas, where populations have been completely destroyed but for now, they are sticking to collecting data about them. They’re looking at population densities, habitat preferences, diet, sex ratios, activity patterns, etc., hoping to shed some light on how the species could be helped and how further damage can be presented. Texas designated the Texas horned lizard the official state reptile in 1993.