Horned Lizard Shoots Blood

Table of Contents

A bizarre lizard can be found in the arid regions of Central America and North America. These reptiles resemble little dragons, spikes and all, and are called horned lizards. However, what makes them stand out is hardly related to their looks… It is their bizarre defense mechanism that makes them unique. Horned lizards spray their enemies with blood, which stuns them. Let’s get into how this lizard pulls off such an act.


Horned lizards have a variety of predators, including birds, snakes, and mammals. While some of these predators have developed strategies to deal with the blood-squirting defense, it remains effective against many potential threats. The horned lizard’s unique defense mechanism allows it to escape from situations that might otherwise be deadly.

How does a horned lizard protect itself?

When a horned lizard finds itself in a difficult situation, its primary instinct is to protect itself. With its horns and spiky scales, it signals that it’s not a safe meal. However, these physical attributes alone are not sufficient to deter all predators. So, when threatened, the horned lizard employs an unexpected and shocking tactic: it squirts blood from its eyes.


The process begins with the horned lizard puffing up its body to make itself appear larger and more intimidating. Then it tilts its head downward, increasing blood pressure within its sinus cavities . This increased pressure causes blood to be forced into the thin-walled tissues around its eyes. As a result, the horned lizard can squirt a stream of its blood from the sinuses around their eye sockets. The stream of blood can travel up to a distance of 5 feet, right into the eyes, mouth, or face of the potential threat! This behavior is astonishing and somewhat gruesome, but serves a crucial purpose.

Why is the blood so effective?

The blood that the horned lizard squirts is not just any blood; it’s imbued with chemicals that make it particularly unpleasant for would-be attackers. The blood contains a noxious substance that is irritating to many predators. This venom is believed to come from eating venomous ants, a staple in the diet of a horned lizard. When this substance enters the eyes or mouth of a predator, it causes a burning sensation, and this can be a powerful deterrent . For some predators, this unexpected assault makes them think twice about attempting to make a meal out of a horned lizard.

How do horned lizards clean up?

Horned lizards have a transparent membrane over each eye, which is common in the reptilian world. This functions like an additional eyelid and pushes blood and debris to the rear corner of the eye, where it is deftly rubbed off.


Blood Pressure: The force of blood against the walls of blood vessels, which increases when the horned lizard puffs up its body.


Sinus Cavities: Hollow spaces within the skull where blood can be temporarily stored before being expelled.


Deterrent: Something that discourages or prevents a predator from attacking or consuming.


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