Mystery Creature Revealed – The Thorny Devil

Did you guess last week’s Mystery Creature? It was the Thorny Devil (Moloch horridus) or Thorny Dragon. This formidable looking lizard is native to Australia. But it he as dangerous as he looks? Here are some interesting facts about the Thorny Devil.

 

photo credit: Bill & Mark Bell via photopin cc
photo credit: Bill & Mark Bell via photopin cc

The name Thorny Devil or Thorny Dragon is quite an intimidating monocle but even more so is the scientific name for these lizards… Moloch horridus; Inspired by the poem Paradise Lost (by Milton) in which the god Moloch is described as “a horrid king besmeared with blood of human sacrifice”!

In reality the Thorny Devil does not live up to it’s name as it is small in stature (no more than 20 cm), slow moving and eats only ants (thousands per day)

As well as ants, the lizard needs water to survive the arid scrub lands and deserts of it’s Central Australian habitat. It has a very interesting way of “harvesting” water. It walks slowly through the scrub letting dew drops fall on it’s thorny body. Between the thorns are tiny channels that carry the water right to the Thorny Devil’s mouth.

 

 

The  entire surface of the Thorny Devil is covered in  spiky scales but to defend rather than to harm! photo credit: ccdoh1 via photopin cc
photo credit: ccdoh1 via photopin cc

 

Another interesting feature of this animal is it’s defense mechanisms. Although in reality it does not have any real weaponry of defense it’s thorny exterior acts as a deterrent to potential predators (mainly wild birds). If this is not enough he bends his head, revealing a false head with big horns above his neck.

 

So although the entire surface of the Thorny Devil is covered in spiky scales these are to defend rather than to harm!

 

I don’t really think he deserves the name, but it might just add to his street cred and keep the predators at bay!

 

What do you think… cute or ugly, or just misunderstood?

nao

Science blogger and writer; Owner of Dr. How's Science Wows; Mother of three junior scientists who have taught me that to be a great scientist you need to look at life through the eyes of a child!

2 thoughts on “Mystery Creature Revealed – The Thorny Devil

  • December 29, 2014 at 1:46 pm
    Permalink

    Great blog Doc,Just thought I would add one more defensive act to the list for these reptiles.
    As a final strategy when threatened they can squirt blood from the corners of there eyes.

    Reply
    • December 30, 2014 at 12:11 pm
      Permalink

      Thanks Bill, great point, definitely needs to be included to do him justice. Amazing animal!

      Reply

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