On a recent stroll along the forested South Rim, I nearly stepped on a perfectly camouflaged neighbor. The mountain short-horned lizard (Phrynosoma hernandesi) is a palm-sized, diurnal insectivore with a menacing scowl that can be found throughout the mountain West. My wife Kim and I are always on the lookout for these curious creatures as we ramble about in the woods; both as a measure of our attentiveness, and to avoid any unintended squashings.
Phrynosoma hernandesi was named for Francisco Hernández Médico, a Spanish explorer who in 1651 wrote one of the first accounts of horned lizards. The Navajo refer to mountain short-horned lizards as Chei (Grandfather) and sprinkle him with corn pollen as a blessing.
After enduring our curiosity for a moment, our new acquaintance darted beneath a tangle of brush—but not before granting this photograph.