Canadian scientists work to save endangered blood-squirting lizard

A group of biologists working in Saskatchewan's Grasslands National Park are trying to save one of Canada's rarest and perhaps strangest creatures — the greater short-horned lizard.

This lizard, which can be found anywhere between New Mexico and southwestern Alberta, has a rather unique and strange defense mechanism. It shoots its own blood from its eyes to ward off an attacker.

The lizard has been considered 'endangered' on Canada's Species At Risk list since 2007, mainly due to habitat loss from "ongoing oil and gas development, proliferation of roads, proposed mineral development, and an increased human presence."

Dr. Shelley Pruss, a Species at Risk Ecologist at the University of Alberta and member of the team of biologists studying the lizard, told the Canadian Press that her team has only ever seen one of these lizards once. This isn't entirely due to their rarity, though, as they are usually well-hidden by their camouflage skin. The one they did see didn't shoot blood at them, but it apparently did have blood dripping from its eyes.

"They don't do it to people. People like us don't really scare them enough. But they will do it if they're picked up by a coyote or fox."

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Although the loss of this species from Canada wouldn't mean its extinction, the loss would be yet another blow to the diversity of our country's wildlife. Although the Species at Risk registry exists to log these endangered animals, the future of this act may be uncertain. Some fear that the act will soon be weakened by the federal government, or that the process of it works too slowly (and while science experts recommend species, it's the cabinet that authorizes them). The call is to have the federal government fully support and fully implement the Act.

(Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons. Video courtesy: NatGeo/YouTube)

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