Friday, February 24, 2017

ZooWeird 84

A doggerel series about odd or little-known animals.

Thorny dragon.  A small, scary-looking species of lizard occurring exclusively in Australia—the sole species of the genus Moloch. One of the species’ most strange features is how it consumes water, with its skin acting as blotting paper, sucking the water from the ground and directing it upwards, until it reaches its mouth. Another unique feature is its fake head. When threatened, the thorny dragon burrows its real head, leaving the pretend, thorn-covered, head exposed. The species is found throughout the arid regions of Western Australia, the Northern Territory, south-western Queensland and western South Australia. It occurs in sand, spinifex grasslands and scrub and is a very common sight throughout the Shark Bay World Heritage Area. Their distribution coincides mostly with the regions of sandy loam soils than with a particular climate in Western Australia.Vegetation in their habitats is primarily composed of spinifex grasses (Triodea) and acacia scrub (mulga). Thorny dragons reach a maximum length of about 20 cm (~7.8 in), with females being slightly larger and paler than males. Its maximum lifespan in the wild is at least twenty years, and individuals reach sexual maturity at three years of age. This strange animal is an obligate myrmecophagous, meaning that it solely feeds on ants, typically species of the genera Iridomyrmex and Crematogaster. They have also been recorded to eat ants of the genera Ectatomma, Monomorium, Camponotus, Pheidole, and Polyrhachis. (All animal info from

Down Under—that is where you’ll find
This prickly little lizard guy
Whose little complex dragon mind
Performs beneath a desert sky.

It loves, it seems, to feed on ants—
So uncles, I would guess, are safe.
He breathes no fire—he never rants
And seems at times a lonely waif.

He has a fake head he can use
When he is under deadly threat—
I wish I had one (oh, such news!)
That I could use when I’m beset

By problems, debt-collectors, foes,
By relatives and enemies,
For if I had one (heaven knows),
Then I could do just as I please!

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