Thorny devils are small lizards native to Australia. These unique creatures are colored in camouflaging shades of desert browns and tans. These colors change from pale colors during warm weather to darker colors during cold weather. Thorny devils are covered entirely with conical spines. These thorny scales also help to defend them from predators. These lizards also feature a spiny "false head" on the back of their neck, which they present to potential predators by dipping their real head. The "false head" is made of soft tissue.
Thorny devils are found in the Southern and Western parts of Australia. They live in the arid scrubland and desert that covers most of the central part of the country, sandplain and sandridge desert in the deep interior and the mallee belt (a region in southern Western Australia). Thorny devils can also be found in shrubland and Acacia woodland.
Thorny devils lead a solitary life and are active during the day. They live in burrows that they dig themselves and don't travel far from their shelters. Thorny devils are not territorial and their home ranges can overlap with other individuals. They usually remain active in March-May and in August-December. From January to February and in June-July, Thorny devils hibernate in their burrows. In order to defend themselves from predators, these little creatures use their hard sharp spines that dissuade attacks by predators by making them difficult to swallow. They also roll themselves into a ball when they feel threatened by lowering their head between their front legs, presenting their "false head". This usually confuses predators and they attack the knob instead of the real head of Thorny devils.
Thorny devils mate from August to December. During this time males try to attract females with the help of display that involves head bobbing and waving their legs. After mating females lay a clutch of 3 to 10 eggs in a nesting burrow about 30 cm underground. The eggs usually hatch after about three to four months. Once the young hatch, they are left to fend for themselves.
There are no major threats to Thorny devils at present.
According to IUCN, the Thorny devil is locally common but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.
Thorny devils are very important for the ecosystem of their habitat. Being ant-specialist predators, they hugely influence their local communities.