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Purely solitary?

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Posted by blackkat on May 06, 2003 at 12:46:15:

In Reply to: Purely solitary? posted by gigaber on May 06, 2003 at 11:07:45:

:Maybe it was an incredible coincidence, but on that hike we had three sightings where there were more than one traveling together. Once it was a large adult and two smaller HLs (size of a quarter), and the other two times it was two of the smaller HLs running together. Is there any posibility that they are only quasi-solitary? I'm no expert (as you can probably tell from this dialog), but I do have some documented evidence of these groups (well, one picture). Once the photos are developed, I'll post them.

:From all of the pictures I've seen posted on the web, the one I have resembles the phrynosoma platyrhinos the most. Thanks for the correction and help on ID, blackkat. I'll try to get a good picture but I don't have a macro setting on my cheapo digital camera.

:Also: One of the quarter sized HLs that I spotted was a deep red color (as all the rest were light sand color). On the off-chance that it was rare or endangered, I didn't touch it and it burrowed before I could get a picture. Do some of the Desert Horned Lizards turn out red? Or is color a poor indicator of species?



Hey Chris,

Ohmigod!!! The rare red horned lizard!!! Just kidding.

Probably the HL's were just hanging out in the same spot because of good/favorable conditions. They are solitary animals, although they do interact when they meet. Whatever the cause for the groupings you saw, they were almost certainly not "families", i.e., related individuals who prefer each other's company. I've often seen several gather in one place, especially around a good feeding area, but it's the food that draws them, not the company.

Your's could be P. platyrhinos, although the location is a bit far to the east for them. Also, like P. solare, they tend to stick to the lower, flatter habitats. And they have longer horns on the backs of their heads, so they also are less likely to resemble P. taurus. Given your initial information, I'd still bet on P. hernandesi.

As in many reptiles and birds, color isn't the best identification feature, as it can vary greatly and sometimes isn't well or acurately represented in pictures (especially photos, which is one reason why most bird field guides use drawings instead). Different idividuals will have different colors and shades of color, and each individual has the ability to vary its own color and pattern to some degree. The definitive way to ID them is to use morphology: horn pattern, scale counts and pattern, etc. In particular, note whether there is a wide, pronounced notch at the back of the head between the horns, so that the horns do have an arrangement something like that of a bull, making the head look very triangular and V-shaped from above; or if the horns are closer together in back, arranged like a crown or like the horns of an antelope (close together, long and pointy, and pointing almost straight back). P. hernandesi has the first arrangement of horns, P. solare and P. platyrhinos have the second. Both P. hernandesi and P. platyrhinos can show degrees of both red and sandy brown/grey colors. A pic would definitely help though, especially ones from above and of the head.

Either way, care is going to be the same, and they're both interesting and enjoyable animals.

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