The Thorny Devil

Thorny Devil Doodlewash - Thorny dragon, mountain devil, thorny lizard watercolor painting and sketch in australia

Today’s uncommon creature is the thorny devil (suggested by Guest Doodlewasher Lidia Barragán). A strange and prickly thing that’s so weird it’s apparently hard to name. It has also been called thorny dragon, thorny toad, thorny lizard, and mountain devil. It’s the sole species in the genus Moloch and it’s scientific name is Moloch horridus, a combination of the name of a human sacrifice god and a word meaning bristly or dreadful. Most likely to avoid all this incessant name-calling, this little creature can usually be found hiding in the arid scrubland and desert that covers most of central Australia.

Perhaps another name the thorny devil could be called is two-faced as they have a “false head” on the back of their neck. When threatened, they tuck their real head between their front legs and present the fake head to the predator. Filled with only fatty tissue, attempts to swallow the fake head would leave the real head and other vital parts unharmed. The most noticeable feature of this creature, though, is their thorny body which, is usually enough to make smart predators gag at just the thought of actually swallowing one. As if these traits weren’t enough, the thorny devil coloring makes for some excellent camouflage and they can also rapidly change color when alarmed.

The thorny devil’s diet consists entirely of ants, and they use their sticky tongues to chow down on thousands of small, blank ants daily. Since living in the desert can get a bit dry, they’ve adapted to make the most of dew. Simply by rubbing up against dew-coated grass, their hygroscopic (moisture-attracting) thorns absorb it and through a little capillary action draw the dew up to its mouth. This handy feature basically lets the little devil suck water from all over its thorny little body. Weird, certainly, but kind of amazing!

As some of you may have noticed today, Guest Doodlewasher Jessica Seacrest is now the Doodlewash Supply Blogger and will be treating us to weekly reviews of various doodlewash art supplies. Regular reviews will be on Saturdays, but today we have a sneak peak, so if you missed it, be sure to check it out here

Also, the Doodlewasher Map was quietly launched a couple weeks ago as a way to better navigate the more than 150 doodlewashers we’ve featured here. The map will let you search by name to find a specific doodlewasher or search by location to see all nearby doodlewashers. Clicking on a Doodlewash “DO” icon brings up a preview gallery of that artist’s work as well as a link to their Doodlewash feature story! Check it out here! 

About the Doodlewash

M. Graham watercolors: Quinacridone Gold, Pyrrol Red, Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine Blue. Lamy Safari Al Star pen with Platinum Carbon sepia ink in a 5″ x 8″ 140 lb. (300 gsm) Pentalic Aqua Journal


Recommended1 recommendationPublished in By Charlie
  1. Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

    Wonderful sketch! Now that little guy was not so fortuitous in the naming department. I don’t know Latin, but I could tell that it wasn’t going to translate into something nice. I am so in love with this series that you are doing! Interesting and we get a rendering along with a cool story. I saw that map the other day- 150 Doodlewashers from around the world- so awesome! (I gave up on finding a replacement word).

    • Author

      Thanks Jessica!! 😃💕 Yeah…I feel like this little guy just gets a bad wrap when it comes to names. Though I think meeting one in person would freak me out. So glad you like this series…it’s more challenging than I thought! I have no prior visual reference for some of this weird stuff!! Lol And isn’t it cool! Just hit 150 last week! It IS awesome…yeah…I’ve given up trying to find another word too. It just works! 😉

  2. Carol 7 years ago

    He looks kind of sad, but I am sure I wouldn’t smile either with all those thorns! Another truly unique creature – thanks for introducing him to us. I like how detailed you made him. 😉

  3. Teri C 7 years ago

    Love your crazy dragon or whatever we want to call it
    Love that Jessica is the supply blogger
    And 150 doodlewashers. Wow

    • Author

      Thanks Teri! 😃💕Apparently we’re free to call it pretty much anything that comes to mind! Hehe And I’m so thrilled to add Jessica to the Doodlewash crew. Can’t wait for more of her reviews!! Was thrilled to hit 150… So many wonderful artists still to share! 😃

  4. Read the title too quick….your doodlewash did not match what I was expecting, scrolled back up T horny devil! Lol.
    Wow the map is fantastic, I have just travelled the uk doodlewashers, but really need to get to bed as its now nearly 1.00 am. Will check out the rest of the world tomorrow.
    Love Jessica’s start on supplies, can’t wait for next post, great tip on filling pans, and angling the paint..

    • Author

      Thanks Rebecca!! 💕😃haha! Yeah…I’m sure there’s an animal called the Horny Devil, but too afraid to google because of what else is likely to come up! 😳lol Glad you liked the map… it’s so cool to see so many awesome artists across the globe! And Jessica’s blog posts are going to be such a wonderful addition… Thrilled she’s blogging on Doodlewash now! 😃

  5. Jill Kuhn 7 years ago

    Love that he has 2 heads! Really interesting creature today, Charlie! 💕🎨 Awesome doodlewash too! 😜 Great idea to have Jessica blog about supplies – I was attracted to her colorful illustrations! 😍🌈

    • Author

      Thanks so much, Jill! 😃💕 Yeah this one was so weird… but I sort of like doodlewashing lizards. I honestly had no idea why because they creep me out in real life! 😊 hehe. And so excited to add Jessica to the blog! I know people were wanting more of that info, but I sort stopped dabbling with supplies. I’m sure her posts will inspire me to play more! And yay!! I knew you’d enjoy her illustrations!! 😉😃🎨No fear of color!! Yay!!

  6. Jacob 7 years ago

    Most amazing indeed! I can vouch for the excellent camouflage, as I initially assumed it was a branch or something with a weird spiny creature ambling along it… then I saw the eyes. I love that glare he’s giving us, as if aware of all those names we’ve called him. I actually think him rather cute – whether I’m falling for your doodlewash magic, I’m not sure, but he does seem sweet enough. Not one you’d wish to stroke, I expect!

    • Author

      Thanks Jacob! Yeah…don’t stroke the lizard! Hmmm…that sounds like some kind of naughty euphemism. Oh my!! 😊 But I’m glad you’re falling under my magic! Hehe…I always try to find to cute in creatures, but some of these are really tough!! This one ended up a bit more smug than intended, but he’s just proud of those thorns I guess.

  7. memadtwo 7 years ago

    Another amazing creature…this one looks a bit skeptical of his momentary fame though. (K)

  8. Teresa Robeson 7 years ago

    You make odd lizards look so darned cute! 💜 Clever little thing to have a false head. 😆

  9. Sharon Mann 7 years ago

    The Thorny Devil is very handsome. You have captured all the thorns, bumps and textures perfectly. Thanks for pointing out your new map, and Jessica’s new column is exciting. Thanks, Charlie.

    • Author

      Thanks so much Sharon!! 😃💕 I loved all the little textures… was worried it would look like anything in the end. Thank goodness for that eye though! Lol And yes…Jessica’s addition is so exciting!! And the map had been a work in progress that I sort of forgot to properly announce. 😊hehe

  10. Jodi 7 years ago

    A thorny devil indeed! another wonderful doodlewash! And thanks for all of the other wonderful things you are doing for fellow doodlewashers! You are such a joy Charlie O!

    • Author

      Thanks so much Jodi!! 😃❤️ It’s such fun to help connect everyone. Art is rough some days so it’s nice to have a ton of people to connect with so we can keep each other motivated and inspired! Thank you for always inspiring me! (With you beautiful art AND your cookies!! Double whammy!!😉👍🏻)

      • Jodi 7 years ago

        awh! you are such a good guy, buddy! thank YOU for YOUR encouragement and inspiration too!!!

  11. jmnowak 7 years ago

    I like this Devil, Charlie…your detail and colouring is spot-on. And, please, he’s not a frightening little devil at all, quite small in fact and prefers to run away! Since you’re on Australia, you may like the Bilby…looks like a very large mouse with Dr Spock-like ears and a long-ish pointy snout. They are so cute, in some places they have replaced the Easter Bunny chocolates for Easter. On the endangered list, I think!

    • Author

      Thanks Janina!! 😃💕 Glad you liked this one…Australia has some of the best uncommon creatures around! And the Bilby is a wonderful suggestion!! Added to the list! They’re so cute!! And yes…they’re listed as Vunerable as there numbers are shrinking. Poor little guys. I’d take them over an Easter Bunny I think! 😃

  12. kathiwerner 7 years ago

    Awesome creatur

  13. Nice work, Charlie! He looks a little sad to be so thorny. hehe! <3

  14. Susan Feniak 7 years ago

    For a poor wee creature struggling to have a proper name it certainly comes well equipped with hand body parts! Nicely rendered Charlie. 🙂

  15. Tom Merriman 7 years ago

    Now, I’ve heard of this little creature, Charlie, by the thorny dragon name. Another throwback from the land of the dinosaurs! Good capture.

  16. Phil Cooper 7 years ago

    An extraordinary creature and you’ve captured it’s weirdness Charlie, great expression as usual

  17. Kari 7 years ago

    So very cool.. I wonder if they are related to the horned frogs.. 😁.. I’m sure most predators would stay away from the gag-inducing thorny devils.. I just love the name!

    • Author

      Thanks Kari! 😃💕I know, right? I don’t think a smart animal would think… yum… I’d like to swallow that down! lol

  18. Cathe 7 years ago

    Two headed, not two faced. What a cool and weird creature! He looks a bit prickly. Great rendering Charlie!

    • Author

      I don’t know for sure if it’s not two-faced as I’ve never tried to share a secret with one! Lol Would never get close enough to whisper it with all those thorns! Hehe… thanks Cathe! 😃💕

  19. Sandra Strait 5 years ago

    Love our lizard, but I also have to say I’ve used the map that you launched this day – it’s an awesome feature!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 5 years ago

      The map is cool isn’t it? 😃💕 So fun to see watercolorists around the world!

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