Thorny devil

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Thorny devil
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Lacertilia
Family: Agamidae
Genus: Moloch
Binomial name
Moloch horridus
Gray, 1841

The thorny devil (Moloch horridus) is also called the mountain devil, thorny lizard, thorny dragon or moloch. It is a cold blooded Australian lizard, that lives in the desert regions of central Australia.

The thorny devil grows up to 200mm long and can live for at least 20 years. A thorny devil was first put on display in London by John Gould in 1840.[1] It mainly eats ants, and may eat thousands of ants in a day.

Female thorny devils lay ten eggs during the September-December season (or Spring-Summer). They put the eggs in a burrow about 30 cm deep. These eggs hatch after about 3 or 4 months, but not all babies will survive, because of predators like wild birds and goannas.

Habitat[change | change source]

The thorny devil is found in the arid regions of central Australia. It lives in sand, spinifex grasslands and scrub. Ideally adapted to its harsh, desert habitat, it uses narrow channels between the scales on its stomach and legs to collect morning dew and water from damp sand. The water travels up these channels to the lizard’s mouth.[2]

Adaptations[change | change source]

The thorny devil has some unique adaptations. These are used mainly for hiding and self-defence from one of their predators, the goanna. The thorny devil is coloured in shades of desert brown and tans, which blend in with their background. These colours change from pale colours during warmer weather and darker colours during colder weather.

The thorny devil has a “false head” on the back of its neck. When the lizard feels threatened, it lowers its real head, and reveals the false head so that the predators do not see the thorny devil's real head. The thorny devil is covered in lots of hard spikes across its entire upper side. Predators do not like to eat the thorny devil, as it is hard to swallow with all the spikes on it. Also when there is dew, the thorny devil can use its "thorns" to

soak up the dew and bring it to its mouth so the lizards don't have to drink.

References[change | change source]

  1. Pianka E.R.P. n.d., Moloch. [1]
  2. Government of Western Australia 2009, Nature fact sheet - Thorny Devil, viewed 23 August, 2013, <>