Australian Animal Learning Zone

Picture of Thorny Devil

Thorny Devil

The Thorny Devil is a species of lizards found in Australia. It is known for its unique spiny appearance and chameleon-like color changing abilities. It is the only species belonging to the genus Moloch and is known by various names such as the Mountain Devil, Thorny Lizard, Thorny Dragon as well as Moloch.

Thorny Devil Scientific Name

The scientific name for Thorny devil is “Moloch horridus”.

Thorny Devil Description

The Thorny Devils have got the most unique appearance among all lizard species. Here is a brief description of these creatures.

Length: Thorny Devils grow up to almost 20 centimeters in length.

Weight: These lizards weigh around 70 to 95 grams.

Spines: Their bodies are entirely covered with mostly uncalcified conical spines which even extend up to their tails. They have spiny horn-like structures above their eyes and a spiny bump behind their head that acts like a false-head.

Color: The bodies of Thorny Devils are covered with camouflaging shades of reddish-brown, orange, white, yellowish tan and black. These colors vary with temperature and surroundings, changing from paler shades in warm weather to darker shades during cold weather.

Sexual Dimorphism: The females are larger in size than the males.

Thorny Devil Distribution

Thorny Devils mostly reside in Central and Western Australia.

Thorny Devil Picture

Picture 1 – Thorny Devil

Thorny Devil Habitat

Their preferred habitats include shallow burrows in deserts and arid scrubs.

Thorny Devil Behavior

Here are some common behavioral traits of these species.

  • In spite of having a fearful appearance, these lizards are one of the most harmless creatures on earth, preferring to evade predation through camouflage and illusions.
  • While walking, they raise their tail and move slowly with jerky motions. They often tend to freeze themselves in mid stride.
  • They prefer to eat their meals slowly, consuming only one ant at a time.
  • During nights, these lizards dig into the soil and bury themselves to keep themselves warm. In times of extreme heat, they create shallow underground burrows to protect themselves from blazing temperatures.
  • They often hide themselves behind small shrubs to escape anything that they consider disturbing.
  • Thorny Devils lead mostly a solitary life except when they choose to mate.

Thorny Devil Diet

Thorny Devils mostly consume ants and termites in their diet. Occasionally when ants are scarce, they can also eat some other small insects.

Thorny Devil Predators

Thorny Devil is a prey animal. Its list of predators includes foxes, goannas, bobcats, coyotes, bustards, brown falcons and snakes.

Thorny Devil Adaptations

These lizards have developed some unique features to adapt themselves well to their environments as well as to save themselves from their predators.

  • Their bodies are covered with spines which make it difficult for their predators to swallow them.
  • They can change their body color and camouflage themselves by blending with their environment.
  • They have a unique way of collecting drinking water which helps them to survive on dry lands. Narrow channels between scaly spines draw droplets of rain or dew and transport it to their mouths through capillary action.
  • When predators are near, they hide their real head between their front legs and project their spiny false head towards them.
  • They can also inflate themselves and look bigger than their actual size. This they do to scare off predators.

Images of Thorny Devil

Picture 2 – Thorny Devil Image

Thorny Devil Mating Season

Their mating season lasts from September to December.

Thorny Devil Reproduction

Thorny Devils start mating at an age of 3 years. The males attract females with elaborate courtship rituals which include head-bobbing and leg-waving. The females lay a clutch of 3 to 10 eggs around the months of September to December in an underground nesting burrow.

The burrows are dug by the females around 30 centimeters below the ground. The females lose nearly 40% of their body weight while laying the eggs. The eggs are incubated for about 3 to 4 months, after which the hatchlings are born.

Thorny Devil Life Cycle

After coming out of the eggs, the young Devils dig their own way up to the surface. The newly born lizards are also equipped with spines just like their parents. Both the male and female lizards grow at same rates during the first year, after which the females start growing at a significantly greater pace. The growth rate varies from season to season and is slower during the winter. It takes at least 5 to 6 years for young Thorny Devils to reach full maturity.

Thorny Devil Life Span

Thorny Devils live up to 15 to 20 years.

Thorny Devil As Pets

Housing: These creatures should be housed in an aquarium big enough for them to move around freely. Artificial sand dunes should be made inside along with some thorny bushes to provide them with a natural environment feel. Temperature should be maintained a dry one like their natural habitat.

Feed: They can be fed some commonly found small insects and ants.

Care: They do not need much caring. Human handling should be checked as they are not accustomed naturally to be handled. While handling them their spines can even prick the human hands.

Thorny Devil Conservation Status

Thorny Devil is not yet classified by the IUCN. However, their numbers are gradually decreasing in present times.

Thorny Devil Interesting Facts

Here are some interesting facts about these lizards.

  • These lizards can consume more than a thousand ants at a time.
  • Thorny Devils eat almost 45 ants in a minute.
  • They can run at a maximum speed of 60 kilometers per hour.
  • Although Thorny Devils look fierce, they are not aggressive and would rather make use of their unusual adaptations to defend themselves.

Thorny Devil Pictures

Here are some images showing these wonderful and interesting lizards.

Photos of Thorny Devil Picture 3 – Thorny Devil Photo

Picture of Thorny Devil

Picture 4 – Thorny Devil Picture







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