Desert animals: surprising adaptations

The animals of the desert are highly adapted to the low availability of water due to the absence of precipitation (less than 250 liters per year), high evapotranspiration and thermal difference between day and night characteristics of the desert .

The animals that we can find in the desert are reptiles and insects but we can also find some mammals such as nocturnal rodents. Other species less adapted to this environment are mammals such as the coyote or camels.

Among the branches of biology that study these systems and species, we could opt for zoology (for the study of animal species) or ecology for the study of the entire ecosystem itself.

Desert animals have developed anatomical and physiological adaptations to keep cool and conserve water.

Desert animal adaptations

  • The most animals small size use these strategies to adapt to the desert:
    • the pit animals are the excavators who dig galleries
    • nocturnal animals avoid activity during the day
    • other animals can extract water from dry food without ever drinking, producing highly concentrated urine.
  • The large ungulate mammals of the deserts adapt to the desert using different strategies:
    • They avoid the midday sun
    • They have a slow and deep breathing that decreases the loss of respiratory water
    • When the body temperature rises, the large desert animals begin to sweat and gasp to cool themselves.
    • They select the most succulent foods
    • They concentrate fat in the hump. When body fat is distributed throughout the body it prevents heat from being lost and therefore more heat is lost in this case.
    • They have a variable body temperature to avoid water loss
    • They have an insulating layer that turns your skin into an insulating layer to prevent heat from entering the body.
    • Its colors are light to reflect radiant heat
    • The urine is very concentrated and dried feces

Desert animals

Among the desert animals we can find small and large mammals, reptiles, birds and arthropods.

Desert mammals

Desert animals
Desert animals

Among the small mammals that inhabit the desert, we can find typical of the North American deserts such as the peccary, gerbil, white-tailed hare, American hare, kangaroo rat, American West pipistrel, ground squirrel, pocket mouse, California hare.

Other desert animals are large ungulates such as camels, dromedaries, antelopes such as gazelles, oryx, pronghorn, and elands.

Among the carnivores: bobcat, desert fox, gray mongoose, meerkat, coati, coyote and dingo.

Desert reptiles

Among the desert reptiles we find rattlesnakes, poisonous lizards such as the Gila monster (see first image), lizards and iguanas, blood-weeping, thorny devil, veiled chameleon and tortoises such as the African spurred.

Desert birds

Desert animals
Desert animals

Some of the birds that we find in the deserts are: roadrunners, cacti wren, buzzards and the cactus woodpecker

Desert arthropods

Insects and arachnids such as scorpions, the Chilean pink tarantula, and the desert locust.

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