Moloch Horridus: The Thorny Mountain Devil

Thorny DevilPhoto: KeresH

Watching a horror movie at night you could easily imagine one of these creatures emerging from an alien spaceship and stalking you. Its thorns, its face, all are enough to cause nightmares. It has one of the best formal names around, Moloch horridus. Moloch was a god in the Bible whose rituals included human sacrifice and I think we all know that horridus is – just that, horrid! The more you look at that face, though, the cuter he looks… maybe. The animal is an Australian lizard and the only one belonging to the genus Moloch.

Thorny DevilPhoto: Wouter!

They live 20 years on average and the browns and reds of their coloration make great camouflage in the dusty red and brown earth it inhabits. As it gets colder its colors get darker. One reasons most pictures of the devil are a reddish monochrome tone is because they prefer scrub and sandy desert so are rarely found in grasslands.

thorny devilPhoto: Wally Box

Their diet is not as scary as their looks would make you think. They mainly eat ants of all things; thousands of ants a day. Water is collected through the dew that forms on its body in the desert and then runs through mini grooves to its mouth. When it does rain, capillary action will take up the water into its body.

Thorny DevilPhoto: Leroy Chew

Apart from its thorns which are particularly obvious, the animal has a very unique defense – a fake head on its neck. When threatened it drops its real head between its legs leaving only the fake one exposed. All in all, a fascinating and bizarre creature which shows once again that mother nature really does have a bit of a sense of humor!

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