Thorny Devil Lizard

  • Alternative Name

    Moloch Scientific Name: Moloch horridus

    Basic Info

    The Thorny Devil is a moderately sized lizard, averaging between 15 and 20 centimeters (about six inches) in length. They are covered in thorny spikes and grooved skin. They have a knob resembling their head on their back, which they expose when threatened. The Thorny Devil's tongue is very sticky and fast moving, unlike the rest of the lizard, which moves quite slowly. Many people believe the Thorny Devil resembles a miniature rhinoceros.


    Breeding The Thorny Devil mates between September and January (spring and summer in Australia). After mating, the female lizard lays a clutch of between 3 and 10 eggs, which hatch after about three or four months. The hatchlings are sexually mature at around three years of age.


    Found in Australia


    The Thorny Devil is a strange looking, slow-moving lizard found in Australia. They are sometimes known as the Moloch. Not at all aggressive, the Thorny Devil instead, defends itself by changing color to match its surroundings; hiding in small shrubs; tucking its head under its body and exposing the false head (a knob on its neck); freezing or moving in a shaking manner to resemble a leaf; and puffing itself up to appear larger. The Thorny Devil is primarily diurnal and during cold nights burrows into the ground to remain warm. It does the same thing during hot weather, only to remain cool. The Thorny Devil feeds exclusively on ants. It eats them one at a time using its fast moving tongue and can eat almost 50 ants per minute. One meal can consist of between 600 and 3000 ants. The Thorny Devil usually lives in dry areas such as the interior desert of Australia. Thorny Devils can absorb water through their skin that may collect in shallow puddles after after a rain; but as rain is very rare, they get most of their water by collecting dew on the ridges of their body. Moisture absorbed into the skin ridges is moved by capillary action towards the Thorny Devil's head and mouth, where he can lick the water off. The Thorny Devil is rarely kept in captivity and its numbers are decreasing due to predation by humans and animals. Some Australian states (including Western Australia, which encompasses the majority of the habitat of this lizard) require individuals to hold a license to keep or breed this and similar animals, making ownership of one open only to those who can demonstrate that they can provide suitable care for it. Lastly, Australian law prohibits the export of such endangered wildlife as this without a permit. The Thorny Devil can live between 15 and 20 years if it survives its first 2 years. Giving birth for females is so traumatic that it can also contribute to shortening their longevity.




    Found in the Western and Central deserts of Australia, the Thorny Devil is considered an endangered species. Their numbers are decreasing because of destruction of their habitat and predation by feral cats.


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