24 February 2012

Moloch horridus (or how to optimize moisture harvesting and water transport in desert environment)

Moloch horridus is a species of lizard with an array of spikes covering the entire upper side of its body. It can be found in desert climate of western Australia. It grows up to 20 cm (8 in) in length and can live up to 20 years, coloured in camouflaging shades of desert browns and tans;

Few birds could relish such a thorny mouthful and to that extent, they must be a very effective defence, but the shape of the scales also serves another and most unusual function. Each is scored with very thin grooves radiating from the central peak. During cold nights, dew condenses on them and is drawn by capillary action along the grooves and eventually down to the tiny creature's mouth." (Attenborough 1979:164)

Here is a comparison between a non-moisture harvesting lizard and a Moloch, when a droplet of 5 µl was applied through a syringe and brought into contact with the surface by the use of a micro manipulator. On Moloch´s back within 2 s the water is completely spread on the surface structure.
Finally, how liquid flows towards moloch's mouth (on the right side of the picture).

// sara

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