Animals / Reptiles / Types of Lizards / Thorny Devil Lizard - Prickly Desert Ant-Eater

Thorny Devil Lizard - Prickly Desert Ant-Eater

head thorns

Australian Horned Lizard or Thorny Devil

The thorny devil is covered in spiny, warty protuberances. Narrow channels between the scales act to draw precious droplets of dew or rain to its mouth by capillary action. This is an amazing adaptation that allows them to remain in such a dry environment taking advantage of all possible moisture. The thorns or horns are mostly hollow modified scales.



spiky underside

Showing spiky underside while striking Godzilla pose

They have quite a few names: "devil lizard", "thorny devil", "thorny toad", "thorny dragon" and other similar variations. They also might be called a "horned lizard" because that is also a fairly accurate description but the Australian thorny devil is only a distant cousin not to be confused with the horned lizard species of the Americas which are also quite prickly with thorns/horns. Apparently, they separately evolved similar traits, they do look quite similar and both sit around eating ants. In fact, that is about the only thing they are interested in eating - black ants. An individual might eat up to five thousand black ants on a single hunting spree. This they do by simply lapping the ants up with their sticky tongue. This also means that they are susceptible to environmental factors because if they can't find ants to eat then they are pretty much out of luck and have to look for new territory or die off. They will eat other small insects when they have to but only if no ants are to be found.


birdseye thorny d


brown thorn devil


false head lizard australia


One big advantage of having so many horns is that to their predators, it makes them a very difficult meal to swallow. They often pose with their tails raised, looking more threatening. The largest rounded thorny spike on their backs is called a false "head" and if a lizard feels threatened it will lower its real head down and present its thorny false head to the would be attacker so that they might bite a thorn instead of its head.


Australian Thorny Devil


thorny devil hatchling


upclose thorny moloch devil




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