The Strange Animal That Squirts Blood From Its Eyes

Though all life on Earth evolved from a single organism, it has branched out in all different kinds of directions, including some kind of creepy ones. Take the pufferfish, for instance. This unassuming little sea creature might look like a squishball, but it'll kill you quicker than you can scream (via Reader's Digest). Or for a spookier critter, look no further than the vampire bat. This blood-sucking mammal might not be a vampire like Dracula, but it's still pretty creepy the way it lands on the back of bigger creatures and sucks their blood (via National Geographic Kids).

But did you know there are also other animals that do freaky things with blood? Specifically, we're talking about the short-horned lizard, a wee creature that might look like your standard reptile — until it starts to shoot blood from its eyes. Yes, you read that right: The same way we might cry tears, the short-horned lizard goes metal and shoots blood plasma out of its peepers (via National Geographic).

The short-horned lizard

There are multiple different subspecies of short-horned lizards, according to Texas Parks & Wildlife. Among those species are the Texas horned lizard, the round-tailed horned lizard, and the greater short-horned lizard.

Also called the horny toad, the short-horned lizard can be most easily identified by its horns. In addition to two spines on its head (via Texas Parks & Wildlife), a series of bumps can be found along the lizard's back, according to National Geographic. There are also dark brown stripes on the lizard's head, though its overall skin color can appear more yellow or grey. The colors are designed as camouflage to help the reptile fit into its arid, desert environment. They measure anywhere from 2.5 inches to six inches in length. The horny toad can be found across dry areas of the United States, Canada, and Mexico, where it hunts for ants and other bugs to eat.

The short-horned lizard also has plenty of predators, according to National Geographic. To defend itself, the lizard employs some unique defense mechanisms. One is inflation: Much like a pufferfish, the horned lizard has the ability to blow itself up until it looks much larger than its usual size, to make predators think it's too large to take down. And, of course, there's the matter of the blood ducts in its eyes.

Why it shoots blood from its eyes

When a short-horned lizard can't deter a predator by any other means, they resort to crying blood. Also called "auto hemorhaging," this defense mechanism is just as hardcore as it sounds (via Ask Nature).

The whole thing works because of specific muscles and ducts that the lizard has in its eyes. When it wants to turn away predators, the lizard engages its muscles to cut off blood flow from the head to the heart. In the meantime, the heart keeps pumping blood into the head, meaning pressure is building up, according to Ask Nature. Eventually, it tips over and blood comes squirting out of the lizard's specialized eye ducts, soaring as much as three feet through the air, according to National Geographic, and confusing any nearby predators.

But that's not the only time short-horned lizards might fill their eyes with blood. In the same way that human tears help us to wash dust and dirt out of our eyes, horned lizards might sometimes engage their blood-squirting system to get gunk out of their field of vision, according to Ask Nature.