Greater Short-horned Lizard / Grande Iguane à Petites Cornes
Until recently this species and the Pygmy Short-horned Lizard were considered to be
different subspecies of the Short-horned Lizard. Recently it has been discovered that
the two groups are separate species. The Short-horned Lizard is gray, yellowish, or
reddish-brown. Males average 50 mm in body length and females 70 mm.
A small lizard with a fringe of tiny horns around its sides, the Short-horned Lizard is
not easily confused with any other species in Alberta or Saskatchewan.
The Short-horned Lizard is only found in southeastern Alberta and southwestern
Saskatchewan. It is also found across much of the American southwest and part of Mexico.
This lizard is associated with the mixed grass prairie. It is frequently found at the
edge of habitat types, particularly coulee and canyon rims. South-facing slopes are
favoured, likely to extend the short active season.
Unlike most lizards, the Short-horned Lizard gives birth to its young, rather than laying
eggs. Because of this, the mother can provide greater control over the temperature of the
embryos. This likely allows this lizard to exist so far north. A female can give birth to
up 13 young, each less than 25 mm long (about the size of a quarter) and weighing less
than a gram.
The Short-horned Lizard eats mainly ants and other insects. Females are considerably
larger than males, likely to allow room for their developing young. Males likely reach
maturity after their first hibernation. Females likely require another year. Females can
live for five years, or perhaps even longer.
Habitat destruction and conflicting land-use are the main threats to the Short-horned
Lizard. Grazing by cattle close to canyon rims appears to eliminate this lizard.
Development by the oil and gas industry may be the greatest threat because of the
changes made to the landscape. Because Short-horned Lizards are at their northern limit,
their habitat requirements are exacting and they are patchily distributed. Destruction
of a key area may cause the eliminatin of an entire population. The Greater Short-horned
Lizard is designated Endangered in Canada by