Animal Life

Desert Creatures

Deserts are among the most inhospitable environments for animal life. The blistering daylight hours do not see much activity, but a few animals, like lizards, move at high speed across the burning sand in pursuit of insects.
With nightfall, the desert comes alive. Large spiders, centipedes and scorpions crawl out from holes or from under stones.

Many species of rats and mice are adapted to desert life. They include the grasshopper mice and kangaroo rats of American deserts and the spiny mice, gerbils and jerboas of Africa.

Survival
Since water is so scarce, most desert animals get their water from the food they eat: succulent plants, seeds, or the blood and body tissues of their prey. But they must carefully conserve the little water they obtain in this way, so desert animals prevent water leaving their bodies in a number of different ways.

Some, like kangaroo rats and lizards, live in burrows which do not get too hot or too cold and have more humid (damp) air inside. These animals stay in their burrows during the hot days and emerge at night to feed.
Kangaroo Rat. / ©: WWF
Kangaroo Rat.
© WWF
Saving water
Other animals have bodies designed to save water. Scorpions and wolf spiders have a thick outer covering which reduces moisture loss. The kidneys of desert animals concentrate urine, so that they excrete less water.

The camel has a number of adaptations to desert life. Its body temperature rises and falls with the air temperature, so the camel does not lose water through sweating or panting. It can drink large amounts of water at one time and, using the fat store in its hump, can survive as long as 2 weeks without water.
 / ©: WWF-Canon / Anton VORAUER
Camels are well adapted to desert life.
© WWF-Canon / Anton VORAUER

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