Imagine exploring the desert, enjoying the simple beauty of the landscape. You’re so fascinated that you don’t pay attention to the time or distance you’ve traveled until it’s too late. As you swallow the last few drops from your water bottle you frantically consider your options as the sun beats down on you.
If you’re a thorny devil lizard it’s not a concern, even if it hasn’t rained in weeks. According to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, devils simply find moist sand and drink with their skin using a network of tubes that delivers water to their mouth.
The Australian desert, where the thorny devil lives, is very arid. When it does rain, an animal needs to capitalize on the moisture in the most beneficial way possible. Evolution has taken a different route with the thorny devil lizard. The mouth of the thorny devil has evolved to feed specifically on ants that share its domain, leaving it up to the skin to provide water. The lizards have tiny grooves between their scales giving them the ability to yank moisture from the sand. These grooves are part of a network of capillary channels funneling water to their mouth. Thorny devils were observed burying into moist sand or flipping sand onto their back to increase moisture uptake.
The thorny devil sits on ant trails eating ants as they walk along. This stationary target would be perfect for predators; however, the devil has a few defenses. The numerous spikes covering the lizard’s skin act like a suit of armour and give the thorny devil its name. Devils also have skin coloring uniquely adapted to the sand and dirt of their domain, helping them blend into their surroundings.
The thorny devil lizard is a fascinating animal with uniquely evolved traits. Even a barren landscape like a desert can host amazing life.