Thorny Devil - A horny Lizard
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Thorny Devil - A horny Lizard

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Description

One of the most bizarre creatures living in Australia desert is a spiny lizard known as the thorny devil or mountain devil. A thorny devil was first exhibited in London by John Gould in 1840.


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The thorny dragon or thorny devil (Moloch horridus) is an Australian lizard, also known as the mountain devil, the thorny lizard, or the moloch. This is the sole species of genus Moloch.
The thorny devil grows up to 20 cm (8.0 in) in length, and it can live up to 20 years. Most of these lizards are coloured in camouflaging shades of desert browns and tans. These colours change from pale colours during warm weather and to darker colours during cold weather.
These animals are covered entirely with conical spines that are mostly uncalcified.
There are morphological similarity between the thorny devil and North American horned lizards, genus Phrynosoma. Thorny devils are agamid lizards, very distantly related to horned lizards, which are phrynosomatids.

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Habitat

Thorny devils are found through most of arid inland Australia, particularly on sandy soils, but they seldom occur on stony soils.
Thorny devils are found in two quite different habitats: spinifex-sandplain and sandridge deserts of the interior and the mallee belt of southern South Australia and southwestern Western Australia.
The geographic distribution of thorny devils corresponds more closely to the distribution of sandy and sandy loam soils than to any climatological field.

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Thorny devils will consume several species of ants, but are especially partial to very small Iridomyrmex ants, especially Iridomyrmex flavipes. Feeding rates have been estimated at from 24 to 45 ants per minute.
Occasional objects such as small stones, sticks, tiny flowers and small insect eggs are also ingested -- these are probably objects being carried by ants and are eaten only accidentally.
Large numbers of ants are eaten per meal by an individual thorny devil (estimates range from 675 to 1000-1500 to 2500)

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Thorny devils are heliotherms, relying on solar energy to raise their body temperatures above ambient temperatures. Body temperature varies directly with air temperature.
Thorny devils posses a curious knob-like spiny appendage on the backs of their necks, which has sometimes been likened to a false head.

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When threatened, the lizards tuck their real heads down between their forelegs leaving this false head in the position of their real head. This would certainly make them difficult for most predators to swallow, even a snake.
Adult female thorny devils are larger and stouter than adult males. Adult females range from 80 to 110 mm in snout-vent length and weigh from 33 to 88.7 gms, whereas adult males are all under 96 mm in snout-vent length and never weigh more than 49 gms.





Reproduction


Thorny devils display a bimodal seasonal pattern of activity. These lizards move little during the coldest winter months (June and July) or during the hottest summer months (January and February).
Thorny devils are active during a three-month autumnal period (March, April, and May) and during a five month activity period that spans late winter, spring and early summer (August through December), during which mating and egg deposition take place.
During hot summer days, thorny devils retreat into shallow underground burrows dug by themselves.











Interesting Facts


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. The horns are mostly hollow modified scales.
Literally the lizard drink the water through her skin.
On one single meal she can eat up to 4.000 ants.
Feeding rates have been estimated at from 24 to 45 ants per minute.


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Sources :

http://www.factzoo.com/reptiles/lizards/thorny-devil-lizard.html
http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~varanus/moloch.html
http://www.zo.utexas.edu/courses/bio373/Moloch.Copeia.1970.pdf
http://www.wallgc.com/download/51313/devil-lizards-thorny-lizard-2560x1600/
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