Swiftocracy!: Attack of the Toads
For the last two weeks each of my posts have been based off requests. For more information about how that happened, look here.
“Write about Horny Toads and their ability to defend themselves from predators.”
Horny Toads are not toads.
But they do have an abundance of horns.
Horny Toad is a colloquial term for several species of Horned Lizard, all of whom are native to North America. They are not amphibians. Many of them live in the desert, though some can be found in the forests of Idaho and southern Oregon, and in Colorado. They’re small, and fat, and covered in spikes that make then more charismatic than your average fat lizard. They got the name Horny Toad because they look a lot like toads. They have a short, wide snout and a short, fat body. In addition they will inflate their bodies when threatened, which certainly seems to be toadlike behavior. I mean look at this thing:
I wouldn’t blame you for calling it a toad.
Horny Toads, despite their fiercesome appearance, are actually quite small and probably quite tasty. They also don’t move too fast. The Horny Toad hunts by sitting very still and eating any ants that walk by it’s mouth. In order to survive it utilizes four distinct lines of defense.
1. Camouflage. Their dull earth tone scales and bumpy exterior means that this lizard blends right into the landscape while it waits for ants. If you can’t see him then you can’t eat him. Of course camouflage isn’t perfect. When a hungry coyote or bobcat spies him sitting on a rock he’ll have to try…
2. Inflation. The Horny Toad will inflate its body somewhat when threatened. This makes him look bigger, spikier, and can be a little surprising. The hope is that whoever is bothering him will get scared off. If this fails to impress he can always rely on…
3. His spikes. He’s a prickly little critter who may hurt going down. Some predators will be put off by this. If one tries to snatch him up he’ll usually lean down on one side to keep their jaws from getting a grip on his scaly hide. If this doesn’t work he has only one more trick up his sleeve, and it’s a real doosy.
4. Blood shooting eyeballs.
That’s a pretty strange defensive ability, I must admit.
Though it seems like something out of a prospectors tall tale, the fact is that Horny Toads really can shoot blood out of their eyeballs. Well, out of ducts close to the eyes anyway. They can shoot blood up to five feet, which is pretty frightening to a hungry coyote. It’s just plain surprising. Predators are no stranger to blood, but they don’t expect to go spraying until after they start biting. In nature you don’t get second chances, so most animals are wary of anything too surprising. As an added bonus there’s something in the blood that stinks to high heaven if you’re a canine or feline. It makes a predator wonder: why bother trying to eat this freaky stink blood shooting spiky thing when there are plenty of perfectly normal groundhogs around to munch on?
What is most surprising to me is how they shoot the blood out. I was ready to believe that they just have some natural little blood cannon ducts in their eyeballs that fill up with blood and squeeze them out like a super soaker. The truth is that they somehow reduce the flow of blood leaving their head. This builds up pressure until the ducts in their eyes literally explode, the blood vessels bursting outward in a spray of blood. That sounds painful! Imagine if you could do that.
Now stop before you give yourselves nightmares.