25 Desert Animals And Their Characteristics

Some of the most representative desert animals are camel, dingo, coyote, gerbil, desert scorpion, among others. Animals that live in the desert often have adaptation methods that allow them to survive in the extreme conditions of this ecosystem . For example, camels and dromedaries can go long periods of time without ingesting water.

Deserts are regions where rainfall is very low and can be hot or cold. This creates a wide variety of desert areas, such as the Sahara Desert, the deserts of the southwestern United States, and the deserts of Antarctica .

Animals that live in the desert.  The one in the picture is the Etosha desert.

Despite these harsh conditions, deserts are home to a wide variety of species, both plant and animal. Furthermore, it could be said that, due to these conditions, there is no environment in which the evolution of species is more accurately evidenced than in a desert ecosystem.

You may also be interested in knowing  the 20 most extraordinary desert plants

List of animals that inhabit desert areas

1- Camel

Animals from hot climates are perfectly represented by the camel

Camels are without a doubt one of the first animals to be thought of when saying “desert”. These animals reserve large amounts of fat in their hump, which is burned off when camels are unable to find food.

Also, camels have thick ear hairs, which keeps sand out of their ears; the same goes for his eyelashes, which are thick and long.

To all this, we should add the special membranes that they have in their eyes and hooves, which can be compared to the shoes that humans use to walk in the snow.

2- Dingo

Dingoes are descendants of domestic dogs, which live in the desert areas of Australia and can reach 1.5 meters. These usually live in family groups, but can be organized in packs to guarantee the hunt.

At first, dingoes fed on kangaroos, but with the arrival of man in Australia, these animals changed their eating habits and now hunt sheep and rabbits.

3 – Peccary

The peccary is a mammal with a digestive system strong enough to eat cactus without being affected by the thousands of thorns that these plants have.

This is a great survival method, since cacti are not only a source of food, but they also provide the animal with large amounts of water.

4 – Bargain

Bargains are birds found primarily in the deserts of Asia and North Africa. The feathers on the belly of this bird have a mechanism that allows it to absorb and retain small amounts of water.

The males of this species use these feathers as sponges to transport water to the nests and share it with their partners and with their young.

5- Roadrunner

The roadrunner is a bird that lives in the deserts of North America. These magnificent animals can survive without having to drink a single drop of water, since they obtain the necessary liquids through the food they eat.

However, like all species, the roadrunner needs to excrete the minerals it does not need, but cannot do so through urine, as this would be a waste of fluids.

So what these birds do is concentrate the animals in a single drop that is secreted in the shape of a tear through a gland near the eye.

6- sand viper

The sand viper is one of the most lethal snakes in the world, due to the hemotoxin produced by it, capable of killing any prey almost immediately.

The sand viper feeds on small mammals, birds, and lizards. This species lives in the Sahara desert and can grow to between 20 and 35 cm. Its head is triangular and it has tiny eyes.

7- Beetles

Dung beetles kneading a manure

There are several species of beetles in the desert, such as the acatangas or the Stenocara gracilipes beetle .

The acatanga, also known as the dung beetle, was a sacred symbol in ancient Egypt. This species survives thanks to the feces of other animals, which are usually shaped into a ball (hence the name “ball player”).

The Stenocara gracilipes is found in the Namib Desert in southern Africa. Due to its proximity to the sea, this desert receives sea fog during the first hours of the day. Thanks to this fog, the beetles of this species have been able to survive in this desert.

The technique of these beetles is to stay very still so that the mist condenses on their bodies; once a few drops have formed, the beetles drink this water.

8- Adax

The adax is a species of antelope that lives in the Sahara desert and is in danger of extinction due to indiscriminate hunting and global warming; currently there are only about 500 individuals of this species. These animals are native to Mauritania, Chad, and Nigeria.

Adax antelopes are characterized by their crooked horns and light fur, which is why they are sometimes called “white antelope”.

They feed on herbs, leaves and typical desert plants. They get water from these plants, which is why they are able to survive despite the scarcity of water in the Sahara desert.

9- Varánidos

The varánidos are a family that includes multiple species of lizards, typical of the African continent; most of these are in the Sahara desert. They are poisonous and are aggressive when threatened. This creature is cold-blooded, so it hibernates from September to April.

These lizards feed on rodents, fish and eggs, although they can also feed on birds, small mammals, and other creatures if the situation permits. Varánids are between one and two meters long and have a life expectancy of 8 years.

10- Red Neck Ostrich

The North African ostrich is one of the largest birds in the world and can reach 2.7 meters in height. These birds have pink and reddish feathers on their neck and in the other areas of their body they have black and white plumage (in the case of males) and gray (in the case of females).

It is one of the fastest animals in the Sahara: it can run up to 40 miles per hour, almost as fast as gazelles. It is a threatened species due to hunting by humans and loss of habitats. Currently, ostriches are found in only 6 of the 18 countries where they originally existed.

11- Hyrax

The hyrax is a herbivorous mammal found south of the Sahara Desert and in the Middle East. There are four species of these mammals.

These animals usually live in crevices between rocks, in groups of 10 to 80 individuals. These high concentrations of hyrax are due to the fact that they do not have a good temperature control system, so they must be very close to other individuals to maintain body heat.

12- Common Gazelle

The common gazelle or dorca is a species of gazelle that lives in the Sahara desert that is on the IUCN list of threatened species; currently there are only 35,000 or 40,000 individuals of this species.

The common gazelle is very well adapted to life in the desert, so much so that it can go its entire life without drinking water. These animals are active in the period between sunset and sunrise, which is when they feed on leaves, fruits, roots or any other available desert vegetation.

13 – Desert Foxes

Among the desert foxes, the fennec and the pale fox stand out. As for the fennec fox, this is the smallest member of the canine family. These foxes inhabit Morocco, Egypt, Nigeria, and Kuwait.

They have mechanisms that allow them to live in these arid climates, for example: they have long ears that allow them to dissipate heat. Fennecs feed on birds, insects, and rodents.

With regard to the pale fox, these are found in the territory between Senegal and Sudan. Their fur is very light in color, similar to the tone of sand, which allows them to camouflage themselves in the desert.

14- Chita del Sahara

Among the predators that inhabit the Sahara desert, the Sahara cheetah is one of the most prominent; they inhabit the central-western zone of the desert. These animals are on the IUCN list of threatened species, since there are currently between 250 and 300 adult cheetahs, a figure that is alarming.

This species feeds on antelopes like adax and gazelles; They generally hunt at night and without company, as they are solitary in nature.

The Sahara cheetah differs from other species because its coat color is rather pale and the dots and stripes are less visible.

15- Coyote

Coyotes are members of the canine family, similar to dogs, however they are wild animals. This is an impressive species, since it can adapt to almost any climatic condition, from snow covered areas to desert areas.

Similarly, this species can live close to human populations or can live in isolation, which is a test of its ability to adapt.

In deserts, coyotes feed on rodents, scorpions, birds, and reptiles. They generally weigh no more than 25 kilos and live an average of 13 years.

16- horned sheep

The horned sheep is a species of sheep found in the deserts of the southwestern United States. Males of this species have thick, pointed horns.

17- Desert Elephant

The desert elephant is found in the desert areas of northwestern Namibia and is one of the few species of elephants that can adapt to desert conditions.

For starters, their legs are longer and flatter than those of other elephants, making it easier for them to carry them in the sand. In the same way, they are smaller than other species, so they can survive on the basis of desert vegetation.

18- Gerbil

Gerbils are small rodents that are usually adopted as pets, as is the case with hamsters. However, wild gerbils are able to survive without human intervention.

These animals are found in the deserts of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. They feed on grains, fruits, roots, seeds, and flowers.

It should be noted that the diet of these rodents may vary according to environmental conditions; for example, gerbils can feed on worms and insects if circumstances warrant. They do not grow more than 17 centimeters long and their fur is usually light brown, gray or white.

19- Hedgehog

Hedgehogs are very unique creatures due to their appearance, since they look like a mix between a rat and a porcupine. Its size can vary between 15 and 30 centimeters long.

These animals feed on insects, among which beetles stand out. They can also feed on mice, birds, lizards, snails, and snakes. Their ability to adapt to almost any diet means that these animals can survive in the desert.

20- Peregrine Falcon

The peregrine falcon is a bird of prey that can survive in almost any environment on the planet thanks to its hunting skills and great speed. The peregrine falcon is the fastest known bird, it can fly up to 144 km per hour.

Their sense of sight is exceptional, allowing them to find prey up to 300m away. These animals feed on other birds, especially pigeons.

21- Emperor Scorpion 

It is one of the largest scorpions and can reach 21 cm in length with a weight of 30 grams. Its color depends on its habitat, it varies between black and brown.

The venom they produce is not as potent as other scorpions, although their sting is painful. Emperor scorpions are native to West Africa, although they are popular as an exotic pet.

22- Thorny Devil

The thorny devil is a particular animal that only naturally inhabits the sandy areas of the Great Sandy Desert of Australia. Their body is brown with dark areas and is covered by sharp thorns that they use for defense and to retain water.

An adult male thorny devil can be 10 cm long, while the female reaches 20 cm. They weigh approximately 50 grams and their diet is based exclusively on ants.

23- Mojave Desert Tortoise

It is a turtle with a dark brown shell with orange or yellow spots. Their fur is very thick, and they have long, slender hind legs that they use to dig burrows in the ground.

They are 25 to 36 centimeters long and 10 to 15 centimeters high. On the other hand, its weight varies between 11 and 23 kilograms.

24- Puma 

The cougar is a feline also known as a mountain lion. They are large animals that can reach 120 kg and measure 2.8 m in length. Their ears are pointed and they have a keen sense of hearing

Its coat is brown with different variations. This feline does not have the ability to roar but can produce other sounds such as growling and purring. It is also a carnivorous and generally solitary animal.

25- Antelope Hare

The antelope hare is native to Arizona and Mexico. They are large hares and are characterized by having very long and pointed ears. Their fur varies between gray, brown, orange and white.

They feed mainly on cacti and lush vegetation, although they have been observed feeding on soil with the intention of obtaining minerals.

References

  1. Desert Animals. Retrieved on April 16, 2017 from desertanimals.net.
  2. Dingo. Retrieved on April 16, 2017 from mbgnet.net.
  3. Baker, Craig. 20 Amazing Animal Adaptations for Living in the Desert. Retrieved on April 16, 2017 from mentalfloss.com.
  4. Addax. Retrieved on April 16, 2017 from mbgnet.net.
  5. What Animals Live in the Sahara Desert? Retrieved on April 16, 2017 from worldatlas.com.
  6. Hyrax. Retrieved on April 16, 2017 from skyenimals.com.
  7. Animals That Live in the Desert. Retrieved on April 16, 2017 from factualfacts.com.
  8. 10 Incredibly Adaptative Sahara Desert Animals (2013). Retrieved on April 16, 2017 from conservationinstitute.org.

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