"In the beginning"


The views expressed in this blog are not necessarily the views of the blog management, (on the other hand, they are not necessarily not the views of the blog management).

No effort has been made to stay within the bounds of the truth in this blog as it has always been the view of the management that the truth should never be allowed to stand in the way of a good story.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thorny Devil (Moloch Horridus)

One of my favourite Australian animals is actually a reptile which has the very unflattering name Moloch Horridus or more commonly Thorny Devil (that's Thorny with a T by the way) I have only ever seen 1 of these cuties in the wild and was quite surprised to find how common and widespread they are when I researched them.

The shaded area on this map shows their natural habitat, and while anyone familiar with Australia will recognize that this is harsh and remote country it is also a huge area that I have spent quite a bit of time in over the years.
In fact the Eyre Peninsular where daughter Vicki and SIL Rex farm is included and I've certainly never seen one there so I'm guessing the map is a bit genorous with its boundaries.
Suffice to say they inhabit sandy desert or arid zones and are quite common, they are active in the day time, unlike lots of our wildlife which is nocturnal, and live on a diet of ants (Australia has gazillions of ants so their food supply is assured) they share this diet with another couple of my favourite animals the Echidna or spiny anteater and the Numbat.

The Echidna, like the Platypus is a monotreme (egg laying mammal) that burrows into ants nests to find their food.

The Numbat is a small marsupial which feeds exclusively on termites and is found only in a small area of the south west of WA'
They are active in the daytime but very shy we spent many
hours in an area where they are known to live but sad to say were never lucky enough to find one

Thorny Devils can consume 1,000s of ants which they catch on their long tongues, they eat the ants 1 at a time so spend a lot of their time feeding, they live in shallow burrows dug in the sand where they also escape the heat of the midday sun, the female lays her eggs, 3 to 10 at a time, in a shallow burrow also, but far from being a good mum she then has no further contact with the young, they hatch some 3 months later, dig their way out and start feeding on ants straight away.

The Thorny Devil when viewed close up certainly is a fearsome looking creature
Please click to enbiggen this photo

Looks are certainly deceptive in this case as the Thorny Devil is a 15 - 20 Cm (6 - 8 inch) really cute little guy who will sit calmly on your hand
apparently unafraid and offering no threat.
They have a life-span of about 15 years, are slow moving, more prone to standing quite still and well camouflaged than to running away under threat, their main enemies are Goanna's (a very large member of the lizard family) and Hawks.
Thorny Devils have adapted well to their chosen environment, they drink by collecting rain or dew on their bodies and channeling it to the corners of their mouths along grooves in their backs

This photo is my own, of the only Thorny Devil I encountered in my travels.

This is a typical pose when they feel threatened, they also rock slowly from side to side, he (or she) calmed down quickly though and sat on my hand quite contently, we seemed to instinctively trust one another, which when you consider the size difference from his point of view and the number of stinging or poisonous critters from my point of view was quite odd really.
I have since learned lots more about them and find that our instincts were well founded as we offer little or no threat to one another.....
Crikey, Thorny Devils rule!!!!


Dave said...

Seriously cool looking animal Peter!!!

Thank you so much for this post.. it's great!

karisma said...

Nah I disagree! He's ugly! I am a frilled neck lizard fan myself! (Fell in love when we watched Napoleon with the kids and the little lizard stands in the middle of the road in the dessert screaming out "Get Lost" to whoever dares try to pass! We have called them "get lost" lizards ever since!

Jack K. said...

Peter, as usual, you do us and the Thorny Devil a great service. The little is much more handsome in your photo.

Thanks for sharing your adventure.

Big Dave T said...

Just as long as he sits on YOUR hand, not on mine.

Christina said...

I think the Thorny Devil is quite cute actually.

The Echidna looks like a cross between a hedgehog and an anteater.

Puss-in-Boots said...

I like Echnidnas, too. But that (T)horny devil is rather cute. I've never seen one in real life, only on docos on tv, probably because I haven't yet visited their habitat.

I didn't realise they were so quiet...that's nice for a change, as most of our reptiles (apart from skinks and the like) can do you serious damage.

Very interesting post, Peter.

Jack K. said...

Just had to check back. While I was gone I finally remembered we have a similar reptile that resides on our Southwestern desert area. The Horned Toad is not as colorful as the Thorny Devil, but there is a similarity. Let me know what you think.

Jeanette said...

Gday Peter. Alan and I were lucky to see a few of these ugly creatures on our travels to Darwin, The first was outside Barrow creek were we had stopped for lunch..

Look forward to catching up peter you when you travel down south. are you going to W.A/S.A...let me know when you have made plans.
Grab a tinnie and haveagoodweekend..Jan

Pamela said...

are we going to be tested?

Really am enjoying the lessons, tho.

I understand the "never seeing" certain creatures tho. We have some around here I haven't seen.

Carolyn said...

That Platypus could actually come in handy- kind of like a brillo pad for cleaning things. But it probably would disagree ;)

Jamie Dawn said...

Thorny Devils may not be a threat, but I will never know that for SURE which is why one of those will never sit in MY hand!! I would pee my pants!!!

The numbat is very cute. I would probably be afraid of him too since I am a cowardly female.

I will admit though that the Thorny Devil is a marvelous creature and looks amazingly cool, BUT it is still hitonious nonetheless.


Walker said...

I have always though mother nature was very creative when creating some of the creatures walking on t his earth.