Moloch horridus or the Thorny Devil
This is one of Australia's most interesting and unusual animals. People often mistake the Latin word horridus for meaning 'horrible' - it does in fact mean 'bristly'. This describes the lizard's erect stance, with the tail and head held high. The thorny devil eats only ants, usually the black ant variety. An adult animal can consume in excess of 2000 ants per day. Their stomachs are designed to tolerate the high acid levels of their chosen meal.
The thorny devil is a desert dweller, often found in areas with small pebbles as well as sand. In this environment the thorny devil's camouflage is perfect. As unappetising as this prickly little fellow might seem, there are many animals willing and able to make a meal of the devil.
To help in living in the desert there are some interesting adaptations in this little lizard's body seen nowhere else. The thorns all over the devil's body help the animal to stop water loss, somewhat like the desert dwelling cactus plants transforming their leaves into thorns, also to minimise water loss. When water is found, whether in the form of rain, a puddle, or drips of dew on a plant, the body of the thorny devil does not waste it. A unique adaptation for utilising this precious fluid is the system of grooves all over their body. Any water that touches their skin is moved via a capillary action to the animal's mouth.
Did you know...
- People often mistake the Latin word horridus for meaning 'horrible' - it actually means 'bristly'.
- The thorny devil eats only a few species of ant. An adult devil can consume more than 2000 ants per day.
- In the desert environment the thorny devil's camouflage is perfect.
- When water is found, whether in the form of rain, a puddle, or drips of dew on a plant, the grooves in the skin transport this water via capillary action to the animal's mouth.
Distribution of Thorny Devil in Australia: