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Grooves gather water: thorny devil

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Thorny Devil in Kalbarri National Park / Paul Duncan / LicenseCopyright - All Rights Reserved

Grooves on spikes of thorny devil lizard provide drinking water by drawing condensed dew to mouth by capillary action.

BIOMIMICRY TAXONOMY
Summary
The Thorny Devil (Moloch horridus) can gather all the water it needs directly from rain, standing water, or from soil moisture, against gravity without using energy or a pumping device. Water is conveyed to this desert lizard’s mouth by capillary action through a circulatory system on the surface of its skin, comprised of semi-enclosed channels 5-150 µm wide running between cutaneous scales. Channel surfaces are heavily convoluted, greatly increasing the effective surface area to which water can hydrogen-bond and hence capillary action force. Passive collection and distribution systems of naturally distilled water could help provide clean water supplies to the 1 billion people estimated to lack this vital resource, reduce the energy consumption required in collecting and transporting water by pump action (e.g., to the tops of buildings), and provide a variety of other inexpensive technological solutions such as managing heat through evaporative cooling systems, protecting structures from fire through on-demand water barriers, etc.
Excerpt
"The thorny devil, a tiny highly specialised lizard from the central Australian desert which lives entirely on ants has each scale enlarged and drawn out to a point in the centre. 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)

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About the inspiring organism
Med_26571 Thorny Devil
Moloch horridus GRAY 1841
Common names: Dornteufel, moloch, mountain devil

Habitat(s): Desert
Learn more at EOL.org
Some organism data provided by: TIGR Reptile Database
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

IUCN Red List Status: Unknown

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Collection and delivery of water from dew and rain.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Construction

Experts
Zoology, School of Animal Biology
Philip Withers
Faculty of Natural & Agricultural Sciences, University of Western Australia
References
Attenborough, David. 1979. Life on Earth. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company. 319 p.
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Withers, Philip. 1993. Cutaneous Water Acquisition by the Thorny Devil (Moloch horridus: Agamidae). Journal of Herpetology. 27(3): 265-270.
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Sherbrooke, Wade C. 1993. Rain-Drinking Behaviors of the Australian Thorny Devil (Sauria: Agamidae). Journal of Herpetology. 27(3): 270-275.
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Bentley, P. J.; Blumer, W. F. C. 1962. Uptake of Water by the Lizard, Moloch horridus. Nature. 194(4829): 699-700.
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Sherbrooke, W. C.; Scardino, A. J.; de Nys, R.; Schwarzkopf, L. 2007. Functional morphology of scale hinges used to transport water: convergent drinking adaptations in desert lizards (Moloch horridus and Phrynosoma cornutum). Zoomorphology. 126(2): 89-102.
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Comments

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This water harvesting problem is very interesting. The peaks or spikes covered with superhydrophilic material that can extract water from desert air at night by nucleation and condensation. This water droplet grows until gravity force it down to superhydrophobic material (just below the spike) that allows it to flow. This was proposed by scientists from Oxford University to explain the water harvesting property of Namibia beetle.
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I love the Thorny Devil and I think that they would be the best surviver in the whole desert.
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soos
8 months ago
nice post. everybody should follow
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jason12345
10 months ago
This comment was removed by a AskNature editor for the following reason:
SPAM
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jason12345
10 months ago
This comment was removed by a AskNature editor for the following reason:
SPAM
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Is there any sketch of the detail of the thorny devil's skin structure?
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algamvill
over 2 years ago
Hi, here there is another video showing how the thorny devil collects water from a puddle, amazing!

http://www.arkive.org/thorny-devil/moloch-horridus/video-10.html
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Geoffrey
over 5 years ago
One could use solar heat energy during the day like in fridge type system to be use at night to cool surface for condensing water from the air, in my working one could generated 1000 litres per night form your roof. Using other ideas from nature this water could be store for future uses without the need of chemicals too.
Using capillary to pump water up hill etc can be done. I see not reason why you could remove one self from town water here in New Zealand. With work being done at Mit (USA) in near future you could supply energy too. I been looking how to heat our house here using bees and to control the inside climate. The out come we get lots of honey too.
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Geoffrey
over 5 years ago
This comment was removed by a AskNature editor for the following reason:
empty
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Sherry
over 5 years ago
Thanks. I was thinking we could add this as a bio-inspired product, but under a different strategy: "Roots maximize water uptake: plants." Do you think that would be a good place for it? Sherry, AskNature editor
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nhilton
over 5 years ago
This is an interesting site on the capture of 2 litres of water per day from 1sqm of surface area!

http://www3.telus.net/farallon/
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Sherry
over 5 years ago
This is where looking for a combination of biomimetic solutions, a chimera, can be useful. I remember seeing something like you're asking and clicked on "...Liquids" in the Taxonomy on the right side of this page (also can do it manually by going through Browse (Get, Store, Distribute Resources/Capture, Aborb, Filter/Liquids). The first one I came across was "Water absorbed from humid air: brown dog tick."
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TBurrelsman
over 5 years ago
So can we design a wall detail to capture vapour instead of merely blocking it? A rainscreen wall could be adapted, perhaps fairly easily. In hot arid or hot humid climates, what would it take to pull the moisture from the air into a wall cavity, on purpose?
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JoshPSchmidt
over 5 years ago
Egg shaped clay urns are used in India to keep water cool and fresh. Evaporation occurs, which condenses on the lid resulting in water flow and cooling. If a design could be implemented with catchments similar to this lizard that direct water into the urn, while directing evaporation to a condensation area to avoid water loss, it would be a simple, effective, affordable solution for many impoverished areas. I work with a village in the dry, central region of India that could greatly benefit from this.
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mcgovejw
over 5 years ago
I see great application in desert climates where water is scarce. It could be rainwater catchment without the rain. Buildings or other structures could have a great amount of surface area exposed and collect water overnight. Although I guess the real challenge is keeping the surface area cool to allow for condensation on its surface.
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juan
over 5 years ago
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JanineBenyus
over 5 years ago
This comment was removed by a AskNature editor for the following reason:
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JanineBenyus
over 5 years ago
Wouldn't it be amazing if we could move water in our buildings via capillary action instead of using pumps?
1 to 19 of 19 Comments