The thorny devil is a small to medium-sized lizard living in the deserts of Australia. The picture on the left is a range map for the thorny devil. As you can tell by the picture above, these lizards definitely live up to the first part of their name, but surprisingly they are not devils and are even considered one of the least aggressive reptiles! In the wild, these animals are very difficult to find because of their good camouflage. They can also change their color slightly to match their surroundings better, although one source says their color only changes with the temperature – darker when it’s cooler and lighter when it’s hotter. You may have noticed that on their neck, thorny devils have a big lump with thorns on it. This is used to trick predators into thinking that the knob is its actual head. If threatened, the lizard will put its head down, and any predator not already deterred by the spines will attack the knob instead of the real head. Here are one, two, three short videos about this animal.
As I said earlier, thorny devils are medium-sized for lizards. They only grow to around eight inches (20 cm) long and are normally shorter. They are wider than other lizards of this length, partially due to their thorns. Despite being this big, they only weigh 3.4 ounces (95 g). This is about as much as a pack of 52 cards or a little less than a stick of butter.
Thorny devils, also called thorny dragons or mountain devils, eat mainly black ants. They must eat a lot of these tiny creatures in order to satisfy themselves. In fact, they can eat up to five thousand of these tiny treats each day! In order to catch so many ants, they will stand right by a trail of ants and attack them with its sticky tongue as they walk by. Ants, while they are the main food of this animal, are not the only food, and termites and possibly other small insects are also eaten.
You may wonder how thorny devils can find water to drink in the desert. Although these lizards do not sweat, they still need water to survive, and the desert is not the best place to go if you are looking for water. In order to get water, in the morning they will stand under plants and other desert things that have collected dew. They will then let the dew drip on their skin. This skin is covered in a system of tiny grooves, all of which lead to the mouth of the thirsty thorny devil. The lizard will then start gulping with its mouth. This action will push the water down the grooves and into the mouth of the thorny devil.
While thorny devils do have sharp thorns, this does not deter all predators. Some large lizards and large birds have been known to eat these spiky lizards. Such animals will be more likely to eat a thorny devil if it is the only suitable food they can find and if they are hungry.
Mating and eggs
Although not much is known about the mating habits of the thorny devil, it is known that they breed once a year from August to December. Some evidence suggests that individuals will walk long distances to meet at landmarks. The male will then mate with a female if she is receptive. Females will lay eggs in burrows that are up to six inches (15 cm) long and 8 inches (20 cm) below the surface. From three to ten eggs, an average of eight, are laid and they are incubated for 90 to 132 days (average of 118 days). After the eggs are laid, the female fills in the burrow with sand and tries to leave no trace that a tasty snack for some animals is lying beneath the sand.
After hatching, young thorny devils weigh only about 1.8 grams! They are about 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) long. Apparently the young will eat the remains of their egg before digging out of the burrow. Normally these animals will live around six years in the wild, but some can live for up to twenty years!
Don’t forget to scroll down and comment your guess about what the next animal is!
- Smithsonian Handbooks Reptiles and Amphibians. Mark O’Shea and Tim Halliday, Smithsonian Institution, ISBN: 978-0-7566-6009-3
- Animals of the world. Tom Jackson, ISBN: 978-1780191089
- Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide. David Burnie and Don E. Wilson, Smithsonian Institution, ISBN: 978-0-7566-6002-4
- Thorny devil – Bäras
- Thorny devil range map – Heiko Gorski
- Mystrery animal – Papa Lima Whiskey