Australian Thorny Dragon, More than Just a Spiky Devil to Tiny Ants

Thorny Dragon Lizard on Sand
The thorny devil, Moloch horridus, is also known as the thorny dragon or the mountain devil. They got their name from their spiky exterior, with the species name horridus meaning rough, bristly, or dreadful in Latin. The only thing that this lizard is specifically dreadful to, is ants.

Thorny devils are what’s known as obligate myrmecophages, meaning they only eat ants and can eat thousands of small black ants a day. Their strategy as a predator consists of hanging out by ant trails and waiting for their meal to walk right by them. They are equipped with a sticky tongue and modified teeth to deal with the hard, chitinous bodies of their prey.

Native to the arid deserts of central Australia, they have a variety of adaptations to help them survive the heat and lack of water resources. While they are covered in densely packed spikes, their unique appearance does more than just deter predators, it also helps them absorb water. They obtain water from the dew that condenses on their bodies overnight, during rare rainfalls, or by brushing up against dew-coated grass. Any water that gets into the grooves between its thorns is drawn by capillary action to its mouth, allowing the thorny dragon to suck water from all over its body.

- “16 Spikey Thorny Devil Facts.” Fact Animal,
- Bates, Mary. “The Creature Feature: 10 Fun Facts About the Thorny Devil.” Wired, Conde Nast, 1 Sept. 2014,
- “Thorny Devil.” Animal Facts and Information, 9 May 2012,

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