Fun Thorny Dragon Facts For Kids

Akinwalere Olaleye
Jan 10, 2023 By Akinwalere Olaleye
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Fact-checked by Ambuj Tripathi
Thorny dragon facts, a lizard that resembles a miniature dragon.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.9 Min

Have you come across any lizard that looks like a dragon? If not, don't worry. We will take you through different facts about a lizard species that looks like a mini dragon, known as the Thorny dragon.

With the scientific name Moloch horridus, the Thorny dragon is a lizard species that belongs to the Agamidae family. The Thorny dragon is known by different names such as Thorny devil, Mountain devil, Thorny lizard, and Moloch.

The name dragon is given to this species because the two-horned scales on top of its head make it appear like a dragon. It is the only animal that belongs to the genus Moloch.

The name Moloch has come from a deity of the ancient near east, which means a hideous beast. The Thorny devil has nicknames like the Horned lizard, the Thorny toad, and the Devil lizard.

The Thorny devils are primarily dependent on ants for their food. This dependency may impact their population due to habitat loss. So, it's essential to learn about this creature. If you would love to know more about other animal species, you may also consider looking into our articles on the cat snake and the green tree python.

Thorny Dragon Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a thorny dragon?

The Thorny dragon or Thorny devil is a lizard species native to western Australia. It is also referred to as Thorny dragon lizard.

What class of animal does a thorny dragon belong to?

A Thorny devil belongs to the reptile class.

How many thorny dragons are there in the world?

The information on the exact population of Thorny devils is not available. But it is assumed that their population is abundant.

Where does a thorny dragon live?

Thorny devils are distributed across arid southern and western parts of Australia. They live in sand deserts, shrublands and are also found in the Mallee belt, a region in western Australia towards the south.

What is a thorny dragon's habitat?

Thorny devils prefer to stay in sandplains and sand ridges. They prefer to live in arid desert areas.

Who do thorny dragons live with?

Thorny devils are known to move on their own, and they don't prefer to move far from their habitats. Information on animals that the Thorny devil prefers to cohabit with is not available.

How long does a thorny dragon live?

Thorny devils' average lifespan is 12-20 years in the wild. There is no information available on its lifespan in captivity.

How do they reproduce?

There is no accurate information on Thorny devils' mating behavior. But the males try to attract the females and mate with the receptive females. The females lay eggs, usually 3-10 eggs, mainly between September and December in burrows about one foot underground.

The temperature inside the burrows also plays a significant role in the hatching of eggs. The hatching period is usually three to four months for a Thorny dragon egg. The young Thorny devils become independent immediately after birth and start finding prey independently.

What is their conservation status?

The population census information for Thorny devils is not available. As per the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), they are abundantly available and classified as Least Concern.

Thorny Dragon Fun Facts

What do thorny dragons look like?

A Thorny devil (Moloch horridus) looks like a horned lizard, most commonly seen in brown, gray, and red colors. Its body is completely covered with conical, non-overlapping scales and an array of spikes on the upper body.

The exact number of spines on the body is unknown, but they are many in number and are mostly uncalcified. It also has a spiny Thorny dragon false head on the back of its neck.

The thorny devil is a thorny lizard with spikes all over its body.

How cute are they?

A Thorny devil cannot be called cute due to its thorny spikes and bizarre look. Scary is the best word that suits its look.

How do they communicate?

There is little information available on the medium of communication between the Thorny devils. It is mentioned that males communicate with the females by body gestures like waving legs and moving the head up and down (this action is usually known as head-bobbing) to attract them for mating.

How big is a thorny dragon?

A Thorny devil grows to 8.3 in, including its tail, and is longer than the Common house lizard you see in your home. Usually, females are larger than males, similar to other lizard species. A bigger size improves their fertility and increases the clutch size.

How fast can a thorny dragon run?

Usually, the Thorny devils prefer to freeze when they face any predator. If they feel like escaping from any possible threat, they can allegedly run as fast as 32 mph. This speed cannot be justified, though, as there is no recorded evidence available.

How much does a thorny dragon weigh?

A Thorny devil is a small and tiny animal that fits your fist. They usually weigh between 0.15-0.2 lb.

What are their male and female names of the species?

There is no information on gender-specific names for these species. We can presume that the males can be called male Mountain devil/Thorny devil, and the females can be called female Mountain devil/Thorny devil.

What would you call a baby thorny dragon?

The Thorny devils' baby is usually called a Thorny baby devil. Sometimes, you can call it a hatchling as it takes birth from hatching a Thorny dragon egg.

What do they eat?

The Thorny devils are carnivores, specifically insectivores. Their diet includes ants primarily, and they are known to consume 600-3000 ants in one day. Due to the Thorny devil's food habits, it can be mentioned as a primary consumer at the trophic level.

Are they aggressive?

Because of their appearance, there is a high chance that we would consider the Thorny devils as aggressive animals. But they are not aggressive and are similar to other lizard species.

They prefer to stay still or hide when in danger, and they do so by digging burrows or running away from predators. They run at high speeds and stop for a while after covering shorter distances to confuse the predators.

Would they make a good pet?

Thorny dragon taming is not possible as their preferred habitat is very different. Also, the food habits of the Thorny devil don't suit domesticating the Thorny dragon as a pet, and there is no recorded evidence available to prove that this fact is wrong.

Did you know...

The habitat temperatures have a significant impact on the behavior of the Thorny devils, i.e. between March through May and August through December, these animals remain active. They remain entirely inactive between January and February when the temperatures are high and between June and July when the temperatures are low.

The Thorny devils change colors depending on the weather conditions, i.e. they change to pale colors during warm weather conditions and to dark colors during cold weather conditions.

This color-changing behavior helps them stay safe and unidentified by their natural predators. The Thorny devils regulate their body temperatures by making postural changes. It keeps its body in contact with the ground to maintain a warm temperature and stands on its two feet against a shrub to reduce the body temperature.

Another interesting fact is that the sleeping habits of Thorny devils are known to be diurnal, i.e. active in the daytime. They search for food, water, and prey during the daytime and prefer to remain in their habitats at night.

How do thorny devils drink water?

A Thorny devil follows different ways to drink water depending on the water sources. A detailed explanation of these different ways is provided below.

The primary water source for a Thorny devil is the moisture in the sand. The Thorny devil first buries itself in the sand and absorbs the moisture. Condensed moisture is channeled to its mouth with the help of moisture-attracting (hygroscopic) grooves between their scales.

In dry sand areas, the Thorny devil collects the moisture by dew condensation. This dew is channeled to its mouth, as explained above.

An excellent adaption is that the capillary action allows the Thorny devil to suck water from all over its body. This capillary action helps them to collect water with their limbs by simply touching the land surfaces while moving in the dewy landscapes.

In the rainy season, the Thorny devil allows the rainwater to drip onto its back and channels the water to reach its mouth with the help of grooves.

How do thorny dragons protect themselves from predators?

The natural predators of Thorny devil (also known as Mountain devil) are predatory birds like the Brown Falcon and the Goannas, one of the lizard species found in Australia and Southeast Asia that belongs to the genus Varanus. These animals sometimes show innovative skills to protect themselves from predators. A few of the known protection techniques are mentioned below.

The gait of the Thorny Devil is peculiar, i.e. it strolls with its tail lifted accompanied by jerky movements. It is thought to be the defensive approach towards predators when spotted in open areas.

The Thorny devil inflates its body by puffing air to present itself as large and horned. The inflated body makes it difficult for the predator to swallow a Thorny devil.

The Thorny devil lowers its real head between the front legs and exposes its false head on the back of its neck, which is thought to be a warning signal to the predators.

The Thorny devil uses camouflage as another protection technique. They change the body colors that blend in with the surrounding habitats, usually gray, orange, red, or yellow colors, making it challenging for the predator to identify this animal.

The Thorny devil stays still or hides by digging burrows in some threat situations.

Humans cannot be called natural predators as they do not prey on these animals. But they can indirectly pose a threat to the Thorny devil population by running vehicles over them when they try to cross the roads searching for food, water, and prey.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other reptiles including a monitor lizard, or green anaconda.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Thorny Dragon coloring pages.

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Written by Akinwalere Olaleye

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

Akinwalere Olaleye picture

Akinwalere OlaleyeBachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

As a highly motivated, detail-oriented, and energetic individual, Olaleye's expertise lies in administrative and management operations. With extensive knowledge as an Editor and Communications Analyst, Olaleye excels in editing, writing, and media relations. Her commitment to upholding professional ethics and driving organizational growth sets her apart. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the University of Benin, Edo State. 

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Fact-checked by Ambuj Tripathi

Bachelor of Journalism and Mass Communication

Ambuj Tripathi picture

Ambuj TripathiBachelor of Journalism and Mass Communication

Ambuj is a skilled fact checker with a Bachelor's degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Amity University. He has been recognized for his exceptional content writing skills, having won a CineMedia competition. In addition to his writing abilities, he also has a flair for design.

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