By A. R. Croft, Ranger Naturalist
"REPTILE STORIES", like "Bear Stories", constitute a group of so-called experiences, questionable statements, and proverbial hearsay. Most every individual has a supply of such stories which he brings to his rescue when good fellows exchange "whoppers" on appropriate occasions. Where most of these stories come from originally, we usually do not know. Of such stories, one reptile authority has said: "If we discard all the popular ones we shall probably be nearer the truth than if we should believe any".
One such story concerns the Horned Lizard, the Grand Canyon species of which is commonly called the Short-horned Horned Toad (Phrynosoma douglassii, Bell). The story is:
"Occasional specimens of Horned Lizard have been seen to eject a thin stream of blood from the corner of the eye, taking place when the specimen has been disturbed or annoyed".
The veracity of this statement is often questioned, principally because the phenomenon is so rare, and very exceptional, nevertheless it can be placed with that small group of "Reptile Stories" which are founded on facts.
Early in July 1932, one of a party of hikers being conducted on a field trip by the author, picked up a Horned Lizard and the much questioned stream of blood was ejected from the left eye with considerable force and without the slightest provocation. The amount of blood ejected was about two cubic millimeters.
The cause of this unusual reaction is not known. Many Horned Lizards have been subjected to various kinds of stimuli in an effort to induce the reaction but it seems that no one has been rewarded with a demonstration in response to such attempts. It is probable that the reaction is due to a specific stimuli but at the present time no one seems able to even suggest what it might be.
At any rate, this is one "Reptile Story" which is true.
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