The Thorny Devil ~ moloch horridus, is a rather timid and friendly little lizard that makes its home in Australia.  Its name derives from the fact that it has two large in proportion horns sticking out from its head, resembling the traditional look of the devil.  They are entirely indigenous to the very arid lands of central Australia.

They can grow to about twenty centimeters long and their life span is from fifteen to twnetyfive years.  The Thorny Devil, also known as the Thorny Dragon or by its native name, the Moloch. They covered with an interesting skin that is comprised of lots of little spikes that cover the entire lizard, apart from the underside that is a little more smooth.

These spikes along with the ability to blend in to its surroundings are used as a defensive measure.  Other defensive measures that the Thorny Devil can employ are to change color similar to the way a chameleon does and they can also puff themselves up to make themselves look bigger.

The Thorny Devils spiky camouflage skin is colored shades of light orange, brown and sand tans, that actually change depending on the temperature, from dark when cold or pale when warm.

Another interesting feature of this lizard is a small clump on its neck that resembles another head and when the lizard dips its real head then this false one stares ahead and can frighten off potential predators such as the buzzard and goanna.  

The bustard is also a predator of the Thorny Devil but its worst enemy is actually man, in the form of Aborigines who hunt these lizards as a snack, whilst on their travels.

The lizard has a funny walk too, in that it sways slowly left to right, then freezes then sways a little more and stops before continuing slowly again in the same manner.  It will also walk quite slow when out hunting for its dinner.

Generally the only food that the Thorny Devil will eat are black ants and it will get through thousands of them each day.  The way they drink water is also worth mentioning for its uniqueness...

...the Thorny Devil will collect moisture at night via condensation which forms on its skin and this is then siphoned via a capillary action into its mouth by small grooves that are in between its spikes.

The Thorny Devil will also suck dew off rocks, leaves etc and also moisture off its underside that itself collects as dew during the night.  This is quite an efficient system in that the Thorny Devil never has to go searching for water in the arid desert like so many other Australian outback animals and birds.

The female Thorny Devil, that is slightly larger than the male will lay up to ten eggs during September to December, in a small burrow that lies about one foot underground.  The female lizard will incubate these eggs for about four months until they start to hatch, the female will care for her young until they reach maturity and not before.

The Thorny Devil has a placid, calm and cool temperament and they are very easily picked up and handled without them getting stressed or getting aggressive in any way.  They are quite friendly too and do not appear to be afraid of people.

Thorny Devils are one of Australia's nicer variety of animals to be found, so if you are back-packing in the outback and you do  come across one, then please treat and handle these lovely harmless little creatures with care.

 

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Page created March 31st 2009.   Updated December 21st 2012.