Great Sandy-Tanami Deserts - A Global Ecoregion

Richest lizard communities in the world

About the Area
The Great Sandy-Tanami deserts are the richest deserts in Australia that exhibit high levels of local endemism. This Global ecoregion is made up of these terrestrial ecoregions: Central Ranges xeric scrub; Gibson desert; Great Sandy-Tanami desert.
Despite their name and dramatic, remarkably parallel linear sand dunes, this "sandy" desert is actually slightly wetter than the central part of the country. Even the driest parts get at least 10 inches (25 cms) of rain a year, and some small streams flow with fresh water after heavy rains.

But intense heat evaporates the moisture almost as quickly as it falls. The region supports many unique plant and animals species specially adapted to the difficult conditions.

Local Species
Found here is the Livistonia palm - one of the spectacular plant species adapted to desert conditions. A number of mammals survive here, including Red kangaroo (Macropus rufus), the endemic little Red antechinus (Dasykaluta rosamondae), Marsupial mole (Notoryctes typhlops), and Bilby (Macrotis lagotis).

Among the numerous species of reptiles found here are Desert cave gecko (Heteronotia spelea), Desert death adder (Acanthophis pyrrhus), the Woma (Aspidites ramsayi), and the endemic Red dragon (Ctenophorus rufescens).

Amphibians such as the Desert treefrog (Litoria rubella), Sandy burrowing frog (Limnodynastes spenceri), and Desert spadefoot toad (Notaden nichollsi) also call this ecoregion home.

Bird species include Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae), Budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus), White-fronted honeyeater (Phylidonyris albifrons), Variegated fairywren (Malurus lamberti), Red-backed kingfisher (Todirhamphus pyrrhopygia), and Port Lincoln parrot (Barnardius zonarius).

Threats
Fire management, feral animals, and overgrazing pose threats to this ecoregion.

Resources
NationalGeographic.com
 Ayers Rock at sunrise, Kata Tjutu National Park, Australia. / ©: WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY
Ayers Rock at sunrise, Kata Tjutu National Park, Australia.
© WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY

Snapshot: Ecoregion 129

Size:
1,261,000 sq. km (487,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Deserts and Xeric Shrublands

Geographic Location:
Northwestern Australia

Conservation Status:
Relatively Stable/Intact

Quiz Time!

Why are rock wallabies so called?

Answer:
Rock wallabies, as their name suggests, live among rock outcroppings throughout this region. These small marsupials, known locally as "monjon", leap easily from rock to rock with the help of the thick pads on their hind feet.

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