What Is a Texas Spiny Lizard?

Horned lizards are from the same phrynosomatid lizard family as Texas spiny lizards.
Horned lizards are from the same phrynosomatid lizard family as Texas spiny lizards. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

When living, hiking or camping in the southern central region of the United States, especially Texas or Oklahoma, do not be surprised if you encounter a creature resembling a cross between a horny toad and a small iguana. He is the Texas spiny lizard -- or Scleroporus olivaceous -- and he is native to the area, one of more than 80 lizards in the phrynosomatid lizard family.


Texas spiny lizards are abundant in the southern United States and northern Mexico. Preferring hot weather, they are perfectly adapted to life in the desert. They can often be spotted sunning their cold-blooded bodies on walls, rocks and roads. Occasionally a wayward lizard will end up in a house, much to the dismay of the homeowner. They are not dangerous, and the flat side of a broom is enough to guide the lizard back outside, where it belongs.

Physical Characteristics

Texas spiny lizards are a larger species of lizard, often growing up to 1-foot in length. It's body is covered with dry scales ending in points, making it appear spiny. The lizard is multi-colored in hues of brown, tan, white and black. The females have a cream colored belly while the males have bluish areas on each side of the belly. Long toes and muscular legs assist the lizard in scaling walls and trees quickly. Males have an interesting way of asserting dominance or defending territory. They will do push-ups -- moving their bodies up and down along with the offending lizard, until one of them backs down and leaves.


Most lizards dine on a variety of insects and spiders; the Texas spiny lizard is no different, maintaining a diet of beetles, moths, other flying insects, and various types of spiders including wolf spiders, orb weavers and even small tarantulas. Occasionally a smaller lizard risks becoming part of the menu.


Females lay eggs up to four times per year, usually in the spring and summer months. The number of eggs laid in each batch is dependant on the age of the female. For example, a 1-year old lizard will lay 10 to 12 eggs; while a five-year-old lizard will lay up to 25 eggs per batch. Eggs are usually laid in holes dug into the soil and hatch within 50 to 60 days. Motherhood for the lizard ends with the eggs hatching. The tiny lizards are now on their own to fend for themselves making them vulnerable to birds of prey and other lizards.

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