Desert Dwellers

Many animals find the desert to be their home and in order to survive in those hot, arid conditions they evolve various adaptations.

Dromedary Camel
The Dromedary camel is a large even-toed ungulate that in the wild inhabited hot, arid regions of northern Africa, Ethiopia, the Near East, and western and central Asia. They are sensitive to cold and humidity, and are specially adapted to their desert habitat; these adaptations are aimed at conserving water and regulating body temperature. Their bushy eyebrows and the double row of eyelashes prevent sand and dust from entering the eyes of ...
camels during strong windstorms and shield them from the sun's glare. Dromedaries are also able to close their nostrils voluntarily; this assists in water conservation. They can tolerate greater than 30% water loss, which is generally impossible for other mammals. In temperatures between 30 and 40 °C (86 and 104 °F), they need water every 10 to 15 days and in the hottest temperatures, they take water every 4 to 7 days. In case of starvation, Dromedaries can even eat fish and bones and drink brackish and salty water. Groups of camels can also avoid excess heat from the environment by pressing against each other.
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Arabian Oryx
Arabian oryxes prefer to range in gravel desert or hard sand, where their speed and endurance will protect them from most predators, as well as most hunters on foot. During the heat of the day these antelope rest in shallow depressions which they dig in the soft ground under shrubs or trees. Arabian oryxes can go for several weeks without water. They are able to detect rainfall from a distance and follow in the direction of the new plants that ...
grow afterward.
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Saharan Horned Viper
Saharan horned vipers are venomous snakes that live in the deserts of northern Africa and parts of Western Asia. They often are easily recognized by the presence of a pair of supraocular "horns"; however, hornless individuals also occur. The color pattern of these dangerous predators almost always matches the substrate color where they are found and helps them to hunt their prey. Saharan horned vipers lay submerged in sand adjacent to rocks or ...
under vegetation and when approached, they strike very rapidly, holding on to the captured prey until the venom takes effect.
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Black Rhinoceros
Black rhinos live in arid areas of eastern and southern Africa. Although they are referred to as black, their colors vary from brown to grey. In order to survive in hot deserts and savannas Black rhinos have evolved several adaptations. They browse for food in the morning and evening and in the hottest part of the day rhinos usually rest, sleep, and wallow in the mud. Wallowing helps cool down body temperature during the day and protects against ...
parasites. Their thick-layered skin helps to protect the rhino from thorns and sharp grasses and they can live up to 5 days without water during a drought.
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Desert Iguana
Desert iguanas are one of the most common lizards of the Sonoran and Mojave deserts of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. These lizards can withstand high temperatures and are out and about after other lizards have retreated into their burrows. Their burrows are usually dug in the sand under bushes like the creosote. Desert iguanas are primarily herbivores and they are especially attracted to the yellow flowers of the ...
creosote bush.
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Gambel's Quail
Gambel's quails are ground-dwelling birds that live in a wide variety of deserts of the southwestern United States. These small birds are easily recognized by their top knots and scaly plumage on their undersides. They primarily move about by walking and can move surprisingly fast through brush and undergrowth. They are rarely seen in flight. Unlike many other bird species, Gambel's quails require a high protein diet and eat various types of ...
insects, especially in the summer. They also eat plants and usually pick green foods which provide quails needed nutrition and moisture helping to survive in hot and arid desert environments.
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Gemsbok
Gemsbok are large antelope that live in the arid regions of Southern Africa. They are mainly desert-dwelling and do not depend on drinking water to supply their physiological needs. Gemsbok eat mainly grasses but during the dry season or when the grass is sparse they may dig up to a meter deep to find roots and tubers; they also supplement their water intake by eating wild tsama melons and cucumbers, which can provide all the water required (3 ...
liters per 100 kg body weight and day).
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Burrowing Owl
Burrowing owls live in any open dry area with low vegetation including hot deserts. Since they live in open grasslands, Burrowing owls have developed longer legs that enable them to sprint, as well as fly, when hunting. During the nesting season, these owls collect a wide variety of materials to line their nest, some of which are left around the entrance to the burrow. The most common material is mammal dung, usually from cattle. At one time it ...
was thought that the dung helped to mask the scent of the owlets, but researchers now believe the dung helps to control the microclimate inside the burrow and to attract insects, which the owls may eat. Another interesting fact about the species is that adult males appear lighter in color than females because they spend more time outside the burrow during daylight, and their feathers become "sun-bleached".
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Desert Horned Lizard
Desert horned lizards are adapted to life in the hot, sandy deserts of western North America. Their colors can vary and generally blend in with the color of the surrounding soil. When Desert horned lizards find an area of soft sand, they usually shake themselves vigorously, throwing sand over their backs and leaving only their head exposed. This allows them to hide from predators and await their unsuspecting prey. Desert horned lizards also ...
exhibit rain-harvesting behavior; they adopt a specific posture in order to get their mouth closer to the ground and then open and close the jaws drinking collected water.
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Desert Cottontail
Desert cottontails live in open-desert areas throughout the Western United States. They can withstand for a short period with extremely high temperatures of around 45 °C. To cope with evaporative heat loss, Desert cottontails do panting and their long ears may also help with thermoregulation. They sometimes cool off, or take refuge in scratched out shallow created depressions of their own making, using their front paws like a back hoe. Desert ...
cottontails also adjust their diets and rarely need to drink; they get their water mostly from the plants they eat or from dew.
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Desert Tortoise
Desert tortoises are native inhabitants of the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. They can live in areas with ground temperatures exceeding 60 °C (140 °F) because of their ability to dig burrows and escape the heat. At least 95% of their lives are spent in burrows. They are most active after seasonal rains and are inactive during most of the year. Desert tortoises can tolerate water, salt, and e ...
nergy imbalances on a daily basis, which increases their lifespans.
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Thorny Devil
Thorny devils live in the arid scrubland and desert of Australia. These unique lizards have ridged scales that allow them to collect water by simply touching it with any part of the body, usually the limbs. Thorny devils collect moisture in the dry desert by the condensation of dew. This dew forms on their skin in the early morning as they begin to warm outside. Then the dew is channeled to their mouth in hygroscopic grooves between their ...
spines. During rainfalls, capillary action allows Thorny devils to absorb water from all over their bodies. Capillary action also allows them to absorb water from damp sand - this by the way is Thorny devils' main source of water intake.
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