The thorny devil is a lizard that looks scary.
This lizard lives in the Australian desert.
Some of its scales are spiky to help it protect itself.
It eats only ants.
It drinks rain that runs along the spikes and into its mouth.
The fierce-looking thorny devil, or moloch, is actually a slow-moving and harmless lizard. Lizards belong to the group of animals called reptiles.
Habitat and Distribution (where it is found)
The thorny devil is found in the dry scrub and desert in Australia's centre.
Appearance and behaviours
A thorny devil is about 20cm long. Females are larger than males. The devil's colours match those of the desert, pale browns and tans when it is warm and darker shades when it is cold, so that it is always well camouflaged. Its body is entirely covered with cone shaped spikes.
On the back of its neck there is a hump that is called a 'false head', which predators grab instead
of the head.
Thorny devils often curve their tail up in the air. In the hottest part of the day, the thorny devil digs a shallow burrow, often under a shrub for shade.
The thorny devil is not aggressive. It has quite a few ways of hiding or defending itself if threatened:
•It can change colour to match its surroundings.
•It can protect its head and trick a predator by hiding its head between its front legs, leaving its false head showing.
•If a predator tries to flip it onto its back, the thorny devil uses its spikes and curved tail to anchor itself onto the ground.
•It can imitate a leaf flicked by a breeze.
•It can puff itself up to look larger.
The thorny devil eats only ants, mainly one particular kind of ant, eating about 1000-3000 ants in a single meal. However, it eats the ants one at a time, flicking its sticky tongue in and out quickly. It drinks water in a most unusual way. When either rain or dew lands on the thorny devil's back, the water flows along thousands of grooves between the spines that lead to the corners of its mouth so that it can drink.
Predators include bustards and goannas.
After mating in September, female thorny devils lay 3-10 eggs in a burrow about 30cm underground. The eggs hatch after about 3 months.
A thorny devil's life span is about 20 years.
Read more about the Thorny Devil
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Sydenham, Shirley & Thomas, Ron. Thorny Devil. [Online] www.kidcyber.com.au (2012)
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