Desert Horned Lizard

The Desert Horned Lizard is a small, round lizard found throughout the West. They are well camouflaged in their surroundings, and body color can be beige, tan, brown, slightly reddish to match the rocky soils found in the desert. They are very flat-bodied with rough looking horns and bumps on their body.
Phrynosoma platyrhinos
5-8 Years
  • Priority Species
  • Unprotected
Least Concern
  1. Washoe
  2. Humboldt
  3. Pershing
  4. Churchill
  5. Mineral
  6. Lyon
  7. Douglas
  8. Carson City
  9. Storey
  1. Elko
  2. Lander
  3. Eureka
  4. White Pine
  1. Esmeralda
  2. Nye
  3. Lincoln
  4. Clark

Habitat & Range

The Desert Horned Lizard can be found throughout Nevada, and in many different types of habitats. They like sandy flats, alluvial fans, washes, sand dunes, and among rocky areas.

  • Cold desert shrubland and sagebrush
  • Grasslands
  • Warm desert riparian


  • Habitat Degradation
  • Habitat Destruction
  • Overcollection

Natural History

Desert Horned Lizards are ant specialists. The bulk of their diet is made up of large-bodied harvester ants that they use their specialized sticky tongues to capture. When ants are not available, they may eat other insects, spiders, and vegetation. These lizards can endure drought years by limiting its growth, reproduction, and above-ground activities. They will bury themselves in the soil when inactive to keep cool and to conceal themselves.
Being such a flat and round lizard means the Desert Horned Lizard is not fast or agile. However, it uses its body type to its advantage to protect itself from predators. Snakes have a hard time with these lizards because their wide bodies. When pursued they can inflate their bodies making them look larger. Their horns and their coloration make them excellent at camouflaging with their desert habitat.

Fun Facts

This species’ diet consists predominantly of ants which are nutrient poor. They have evolved large stomachs to be able to consume more ants to compensate for their poor nutrient value. These flat and rotund lizards are often called desert pancakes or horny toads, despite the fact they are lizards.