Petiles Spotlight: The Thorny Mountain Devil

Petiles Spotlight: The Thorny Mountain Devil

The land down under is home to several amazing, diverse reptile species. From Geckos to monitors to pythons, Australia has a bit of it all. I’m going to talk today about one of these amazing reptiles. A reptile that stands out even amongst the rich reptile population. I am going to talk about the Devil itself.

A bit about its name


Paradise Lost
The Thorny Devil has many names including Mountain Devil, Thorny Dragon, and Moloch. Its scientific name is Moloch horridus. In fact, it is the ONLY member of the Moloch genus. It was named after the Caananite god, Moloch, from John Milton’s poem, “Paradise Lost.”

Physical Traits


Thorny Mountain Devil being held
The Thorny Devil is covered with conical spines and has two large crests on its head giving it the appearance of a dinosaur or a dragon. These spines are intimidating enough, but the Thorny Devil can also puff itself out to dissuade those foolish enough to try to eat it. In addition, it has a strange, knobby, false head on the back of its neck that it presents to predators when it gets scared.

Collecting water with its body

Because water can be difficult to come by in its natural habitat, the Thorny Devil has developed a fascinating method for collecting every drop it can find. When it rubs against collecting dew or sticks its arm into a puddle, water is drawn between the Thorny Devil’s scales through capillary action. It’s like the way a drink rises up a straw. Water fills the spaces between the scales and slowly covers the lizard’s body, causing it to kind of glisten in the sun. This water eventually is drawn toward its mouth so it can drink.



Usually you will find this species in the arid scrubland and desert of central Australia. It’s interesting to note that the devil’s habitation does not coincide with a particular climate. Rather, it coincides with regions of sandy loam soils. In Australia, you will specifically find this species in western and central areas.


Spinifex Ant
These devil’s live exclusively off a diet of ants. They are capable, and often will, eat thousands of ants in just a single day. To break it down a bit, one thorny devil can eat 45 ants in a single minute. In one sitting, they can eat as many as 3000. Their tongue is thick and sticky which lets them easily grab ants off the ground.


Currently, the Devil has not been evaluated IUCN Red which lists the conservation level of species. Likewise, they do not have any special status from CITES or from the US federal list. It’s nice to give a peek at a reptile that’s not endangered currently! You can’t keep this species as a pet, they are difficult to care for. It would be a pain to keep as many ants as you would need to feed one of these guys. If you have any questions about the Thorny Mountain Devil please leave a comment below!

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