What Kind of Ants Do Thorny Devil Lizards Eat?

Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images

The thorny devil (Moloch horridus), also called the mountain devil, is a conspicuous reptile that is native to the land Down Under -- Australia. As their common names reveal, these slow, wee lizards are indeed prickly. When it comes to feeding time, thorny devils are all about the ants.

About Thorny Devils

Thorny devils, based just on physical appearance, have a rather intimidating look to them. Even their scientific names are menacing, what with "horridus" and all. Despite the sharp conical projections that are all over these lizards' bodies, they are actually pretty mild creatures -- nowhere near fierce. Thorny devils generally weigh between 1 and 2 ounces, and the males tend to be smaller than the females. Their life expectancies are on the lengthy side, as they often exceed 20 years in age. Thorny devils possess colorful physiques, with white, orange, yellow and brown elements.

Preferred Ants

The diets of thorny devils are strict, as they feed heavily on ants and only on ants. Their favorite ants are those from two genera -- Crematogaster and Iridomyrmex. Thorny devils are particularly fond of tiny Iridomyrmex rufoniger ants.

Other Types of Ants

Although thorny devils do favor certain kinds of ants, they do willingly feed on many others, notably Pheidole, Monomorium, Polyrhachis, Ectatomma and Camponatus varieties. When they do feed on others, it's usually because they're having trouble tracking down their favorite entrees.

Predation Style

Thorny devils are stealthy predators. They essentially hide from ants on trails and move in at the last second -- just as the unsuspecting bugs try to walk by them.

Massive Stomachs

Although thorny devils have tiny bodies, they can consume startling numbers of ants -- think somewhere around 750 of them each day. In extreme cases, the speedy eaters can take in one ant each passing second. Thorny devils do not eat so many ants out of gluttony. Since ants aren't packed full with nutrients, these lizards make up for that by consuming them in droves.

Accidental Consumption

Thorny devil lizards also occasionally unintentionally consume things that aren't ants. These things include tiny eggs of bugs, little flowers, twigs and pebbles, for example. This consumption may be purely an accident -- as a result of ants transporting these objects around.

    Photo Credits

    • Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images