The Harmless Devil

The Harmless Devil



The Thorny Devil, Moloch horridus, may look as scary as its name, but it is one of the world’s most harmless lizards. This lizard is one-of-its-kind as it is the only species in its genus.

The Thorny Devil gets its name from its appearance: it is one of the strangest looking lizard; with rough, scaly skin and on top of that, it is covered with spikes all over its body. This Australian lizard typically comes in a range of colours from yellow to brown and black, and it is able to change its colour according to the type of soil it is on to camouflage itself.

This alien-looking lizard has yet another defensive feature that is as weird as it looks – it has a strange lump near its head which it uses as its “fake” head to bluff its predators. When the Thorny Devil is threatened or scared, it puts its head in between its legs so that the lump is positioned where its head is at originally and misleads its predators.

Here comes the more interesting part of the Thorny Devil: this lizard has the ability to absorb liquid water through its skin, somewhat like blotting paper. Using the grooves on its skin, the Thorny Devil is able to gather the water it needs from any part of its body and transport it directly to its mouth by capillary action through a circulatory system on its skin surface. Since it is a slow-moving lizard, this ability comes in handy as it does not even need to move to search for water – all it needs to do is position itself under some dewy shrubs and wait for water to fall on it. This unique ability also enables it to adapt well to its habitat in the Australian deserts.



Literature Cited:

–           “Grooves gather water: thorny devil,” by Janine Benyus. AskNature, 05 Nov 2012. URL: (accessed on 09 Apr 2013).

–          “Thorny devil pale,” by KeresH. WikimediaCommons, 19 Sep 2005. URL: (accessed on 09 Apr 2013)

–          “Thorny Devil,” by National Geographic. NationalGeographic Youtube Channel, 10 Sep 2007. URL: (accessed on 09 Apr 2013)

–          Withers, P., 1993. Cutaneous Water Acquisition by the Thorny Devil (Moloch horridus: Agamidae). Journal of Herpetology, 27(3): 265-270.