The question of what animals live in the desert is a result of wanting to know the desert animals, their habitat, and their behavior. This article will take a closer look at some desert animals especially their description, habitat, behavior, diet, reproduction, population, and the threats that these animals that live in the desert have to face.
Table of Contents
- List of the animals that live in the desert
- Kangaroo (Macropodidae)
- Rattlesnakes (Crotalinae)
- Fennec fox (Vulpes zerda)
- Kangaroo rat (Dipodomys)
- Coyote (Canis latrans)
- Dromedary (Camelus dromedarius)
- Meerkat (Suricata suricatta)
- What animals live in the desert ecosystem?
- Gila monster (Heloderma suspectum)
- Red knee tarantulas (Brachypelma smithi)
- What animals live in the desert habitat?
- Addax (Addax nasomaculatus)
- FAQ on what animals live in the desert
List of the animals that live in the desert
- Fennec fox
- Kangaroo rat
- Gila monster
These 10 desert animals represent just a handful of all the animals in the desert but it also helps to answer the question of what animals live in the desert. The above-listed desert animals will be discussed below.
Kangaroo is formally defined as a group of large, hopping marsupials belonging to the genus Macropus. The name is derived from the Latin word macropod, which means “large foot.” The red kangaroo, western gray kangaroo, eastern gray kangaroo, and antilopine kangaroo are the four main species in this classification.
The most notable anatomical feature of this animal in the desert is its exceptionally long hind legs. These legs are designed for bipedal hopping over distances of up to 30 feet and heights of up to 10 feet. The digits on their feet are arranged in an unusual pattern, where each hind foot has four toes, but only the big toe bears the majority of the animal’s weight. While the second and third toes are fused together and are severely reduced. The hands of this animal have five digits with razor-sharp claws and they resemble human arms in some ways, but theirs lack opposable thumbs.
These desert animals also have a distinct body shape that corresponds to their lifestyle. The body for example is defined by a large, arched back and a small head that ends in a sleek snout and large, rounded ears. Another distinguishing feature is the long, thick tail, which acts as a kind of a third leg, which assists the animal in maintaining proper balance on the ground. Another feature of noticeable character is the color of the coat on this desert animal, with the color ranging from rusty red to bluish-grey.
These creatures are the world’s largest marsupials and they can grow to be 3 to 7 feet tall and weigh 40 to 200 pounds depending on the species. Females (also referred to as jills or does) are relatively smaller than males ( jacks or boomers) have a pouch that opens forward and has four teats for breastfeeding.
A kangaroo is a highly social animal that prefers to gather in groups of 10 to 100 animals at a time, referred to as mobs, troops, or herds. A group of females with their offspring and one or more males form the most common social arrangement. However, because individuals can move around independently, these mobs are only loosely organized. The main advantage is that groups provide protection and security for all of their members. By beating its tail against the ground, an individual can indicate the presence of danger.
Other than gathering in groups, these animals communicate in a variety of ways. For example, Eye contact, sniffing, touching, and vocalizations are some of the ways that they adapt to animal life in the desert. When they are together, they will try to avoid conflict whenever possible, but males and females may fight for limited resources. Their well-known boxing behavior is a male-only competition to determine who has access to females. These matches take on a ritualized form, with one male issuing a challenge and the other male having the option to accept or decline. While standing on the tail, the males will lock arms, push each other, and kick out.
The kangaroo is an agile and fast desert animal with a top speed of about 40 mph and a consistent speed of about 20 to 25 mph. The kangaroo actually expends less energy at this moderate cruising speed than at slower speeds due to its powerful leg muscles and a large tail. These muscular features enable it to outlast predators who may tire of the chase.
Kangaroos can feed at all hours of the day and night and they are most active, however, at night or during other times of low light. Most of them stick to a well-defined home range and don’t move around much unless they are being pursued.
These desert animals can live in a wide range of environments, including grasslands, savannas, and bushlands with sparse or no trees. They are well-adapted to life in hot, dry environments and can go for long periods without water.
Kangaroos can only be found in Australia, Tasmania, and the surrounding islands with each species having a unique geographic range. The red kangaroo, which has the greatest range, can be found throughout Australia’s open plains, while the eastern and western grey kangaroos live in the east and west, respectively. Lastly, the antilopine kangaroo lives in the Northern part of the country.
The herbivorous diet of the kangaroo is reflected in its highly specialized anatomy as it has a multi-chambered stomach, similar to that of a cow, which allows it to digest tough plant material and extract nutrients. This herbivorous desert animal chews food and swallow, then regurgitates the food and chew it again in order to completely break down the plant material. The sharp incisors of the kangaroo are specialized for cutting vegetation close to the ground, while the flatter molars are specialized for grinding up vegetation.
A kangaroo is not restricted to a single breeding season, instead, it can mate whenever it wants throughout the year, depending on the circumstances it is in. This means that it is more likely to breed when resources are abundant and less likely to do so when the resources are scarce. These desert animals practice courtship for a short period of time before copulation but do not form long-term pair bonds. Males compete with each other to monopolize access to females because reproduction is a bit of a free-for-all.
The young joey is born hairless, helpless, and completely blind after a month of gestation, measuring no more than an inch in size. It crawls into the mother’s pouch and attaches itself to her teat first. It can stay there for 120 to 400 days. Even after it emerges from the pouch, the young kangaroo will stay with its mother for another year and a half to reach adulthood. In the whole developmental process of the joey, it is only the mother that takes the whole responsibility because there is no part for the male (father) to play.
When resources are plentiful, the mother may be able to care for three offspring at the same time: the undeveloped embryo, a joey inside the pouch, and a joey outside the pouch. The embryo can go into a dormant state, known as diapause, for as long as it takes until the other baby leaves the pouch. The anatomy of the mother is specifically designed to deal with this. She is capable of producing two types of milk, one for the newborn joey and one for the larger juvenile and this enables her to increase the number of children she can raise at one time.
If indeed the joey develops normally, it should reach sexual maturity within the first 2 years of life in the wild, and have an average life expectancy of about 20 years, although some individuals have been known to live longer.
Threats and population
Since people first arrived on the island of Australia tens of thousands of years ago, they have hunted and culled these desert animals and used them for food and resources every year.
Despite the fact that a large number of kangaroos have been killed, there has been little impact on their conservation status. As per the IUCN Red List, the present classification of the four kangaroo species is of low concern, with the only exception being the black wallaroo that is considered threatened. According to the best population estimates, there are tens of millions of kangaroos roaming Australia.
This animal that can live in the wild for 10 to 25 years is a member of the Reptilia class and the Viperidae family, specifically the pit viper subfamily Crotalinae. There are 36 species of these animals that live in the desert and 65 to 70 subspecies. The rattlesnakes found in the eastern half of the United States (the timber rattlesnake) are among the largest of its species.
The timber rattlesnake is usually 2.5 to 5 feet long, though some have been recorded as long as 7 feet. As the largest in its species, the eastern diamondback can grow to be 8 feet long and weigh up to ten pounds. In comparison, the pygmy rattlesnake of Florida is one of the smallest rattlesnakes as it measures between 1 to 1.5 feet in length, which is about the same as the length of a domestic cat.
This animal (rattlesnake) that lives in the desert has a triangular head and hinged fangs, in addition to a rattler and a distinctive patterned design and cat-like pupils that are vertical in nature.
These desert animals have ridged scales on their bodies and their coloration varies depending on their environment. However, the majority of them have dark patterns of diamonds or other geometric shapes on a lighter-colored background. The body pattern and colors of snakes vary depending on their environment as these colors and patterns act as camouflage to keep predators at bay.
A distinctive rattle made up of hollow keratin chambers can be noticed at the end of their tails and when a rattlesnake shakes its tail, these chambers bang together, producing the rattling sound. A new segment or rattle is added to the tail each time it sheds its skin. However, rattles frequently break as a result of damage caused by daily living in their environment.
Despite their aggressive nature, rattlesnakes avoid human contact and only use their powerful fangs and venom to attack humans when provoked. A rattling sound by virtue of them shaking their tail to warn humans when they are cornered or startled is being produced before an eventual attack if the warning sound is not heard and heeded to.
These snakes hiss like cats and the hissing sound originates deep within their throats, and during this period, their bodies can be seen puffing up and deflating. This process of swelling and deflation allows them to take in air and let the air out to produce the hissing sound.
A rattlesnake coils into a tight circle when it feels threatened and it raises its heads high in preparation for a strike, even if the target is as far as one-third of the overall length of its body.
Families of the same species frequently reuse their dens, sometimes for more than a century and whenever the snakes leave the den during the day, they sunbathe on warm rocks or in the open. When the weather becomes unbearably hot in the summer, they may adjust their schedule to include more nighttime activities.
Some rattlesnakes spend a significant amount of time in trees because they have the ability to climb up a tree and reach heights of 80 feet or more.
The southwestern states of the United States and the northern part of Mexico have the largest percentage of rattlesnake populations. Arizona has the most rattlesnakes, with 13 different species living there.
Enough rattlesnakes live in the desert sands and dry climate of the Southwest than anywhere else. Many subspecies, however, thrive in other climates and environments. For example, they thrive in grassy areas, rocky hills, swamplands, meadows, brushy areas, and even at elevations of up to 11,000 feet above sea level.
These desert animals live in rocky crevices in dens where they hibernate in their dens during the winter in colder climates. This hibernation is a period of rest for snakes known as brumation.
Rattlesnakes consume a wide range of small mammals like rats, mice, birds, rabbits, and other small animals such as lizards and frogs. These animals that live in the desert use their keen sense of smell to track their prey and when they are not tracking, they are lying in wait for a tasty prey to pass by.
A rattlesnake has no trouble finding prey because they have excellent vision and a strong sense of smell, which they use with both their nostrils and their flicking tongues. They also have heat-sensing pits near the tip of their nose that detects warm-blooded animals in the environment. Despite their highly developed senses that aid in prey hunting, rattlesnakes have terrible hearing. But they can detect vibrations in the ground, such as those caused by a human or animal walking nearby.
Rattlesnakes strike quickly and inject their venom into their prey with their powerful fangs to capture it, with the venom paralyzing the prey immediately. It only takes half a second for this desert animal to strike and immobilize its food. The snake then retreats to its den or another safe and quiet location after swallowing the food as a whole to digest their meal. Digestion takes a couple of days, causing the rattler to become sluggish and in adulthood, they only require one meal every few weeks.
Despite the fact that approximately 8,000 rattlesnakes bite humans each year, they do not attack humans as prey. This is strictly defensive and only about five of these bitten people die in a given year.
Female rattlesnakes only have one offspring every 3 years. This mating usually occurs in the summer or fall, however, some species mate in the spring or both in the spring and fall.
Females secrete sex pheromones to attract a suitable mate and this pheromone creates a scent trail that the males can follow with their keen sense of smell. When the male finds the female, he pursues her for several days. Throughout this time, he frequently touches or rubs her to communicate his intent.
Males will sometimes fight each other in order to compete for females and they do so by performing a combat dance in which they wrap their bodies around each other. This ritual that they perform makes smaller males be easily scared away by larger males.
The female rattlesnakes never lay eggs but instead, produces eggs in their ovaries like humans. But they do, however, release multiple eggs in a continuous chain into their oviduct, which is a tube where the eggs are fertilized by male sperm. Fertilized eggs typically gestate for 167 days in the female before the eggs hatch inside the female when the babies reach full term. The female then gives birth to 10 or 20 live baby snakes.
Baby rattlesnakes are born with a pre-button instead of a rattle and when the baby begins to shed its skin, a rattle begins to form and grows larger with each skin shedding. Baby rattlers are more aggressive than adults, and their fangs contain the same potent venom as an adult.
Treats and population
One of the most dangerous predators of rattlesnakes in the wild is the king snake, but not only them, because rattlesnakes are also attacked and eaten by black snakes, Owls, Eagles, and Hawks. Strong predatory birds, such as hawks and eagles, swoop down from the sky to attack, carrying the snake in their talons before finally killing and eating them in their nest. Rattlesnake meat is also enjoyed by wild cats, foxes, coyotes, and even turkeys.
These desert animals are generally avoided by large animals and humans because the snakes’ distinctive hiss and tail rattle frighten off larger predators. Despite the fact that the snake’s venomous bite can kill humans, many people take the risk of capturing rattlesnakes for food which is popular among some dinners. Others make boots, shoes, belts, handbags, and other material goods from the reptiles’ skins.
Urban development is another threat to rattlesnakes. Because human development destroys the snake’s habitat and encroaches on their hunting grounds. Because of this development, the most lethal threat to rattlesnakes is traffic because every year, they are being run over by cars and killing them in the process.
Numerous rattlesnake species are listed as endangered or vulnerable in the United States. The timber rattlesnake, canebrake rattlesnake, and massasauga rattlesnake are among the endangered rattlesnakes. Apart from these species, populations of these snakes are robust across the United States and are classified as stable.
Fennec fox (Vulpes zerda)
This desert animal is a small species of fox found in North African deserts. It can reach 41cm in length and weighs only 1.5kg making them be the smallest canine species. But they have the largest ears relative to their body size, which they use to help them hear and control their body temperature in hostile environments in which they live.
Fennec foxes are mostly nocturnal animals, which helps them avoid predators during the day and protects them from the scorching African desert heat. Because of their adorable appearance, they are kept as pets throughout much of their natural range, as well as in other countries. Male fennec foxes are referred to as reynards, while females are referred to as vixens.
This desert animal has a bushy black-tipped tail that is long, and this tail help steers it when it changes direction while running the tail also keeps its nose and feet warm while it sleeps, curled up in its dens.
Fennec foxes have light, sandy-colored fur that helps them blend in when they are out on the sand. Their fur is long and thick, which keeps them warm at night when the desert temperatures drop. It also keeps them cool during the hot daytime hours because the color reflects the sun away from their bodies.
The fennec fox’s most distinguishing feature is its pointed oval, oversized ears, which can grow up to 15cm in length. Their large ears provide them with extremely sensitive hearing, allowing them to locate prey while also acting as a temperature regulator to keep them from becoming overheated. These animals have long, sharp, curved claws that allow them to dig burrows quickly and effectively.
These animals live in both sandy and semi-arid desert regions of northern Africa and the Sinai Peninsula. They have a relatively large range that extends from Morocco to Egypt, south to north Niger and Sudan, and east to Kuwait. They can be found in both the Sahara and Nubian deserts, where they dig extensive underground burrows in sandy dunes, which are thought to be the best habitat for them.
Although little is known about the exact distribution of wild fennec fox populations, they are not thought to be in danger in their natural habitats at this time because they can survive in a variety of desert environments, from coastal regions to sparse areas of the inland deserts.
These animals are primarily nocturnal creatures that are most active during the cooler nights. Because of the sandy color of their thick fur, they can blend in better on the sand, but they avoid too much activity during the day due to the scorching heat. Fennec foxes are relatively sociable animals which makes them unusual among foxes as other fox species are highly solitary only coming together to mate.
These desert animals live in small communities of up to ten individuals in elaborate, interconnected burrows, with each individual or mating pair having their own territory within their underground community. Male fennec foxes, like most other canines, mark their territory with urine and become extremely aggressive towards one another, especially when competing for females during the mating season.
January and March is mating season for fennec foxes and when they find a mate, they become mates for life, with couples living in the same part of the den all year. Following a nearly two-month gestation period, the vixen gives birth to between 2 – 5 kits. Fennec fox kits, born with grey skin and weighing only 50grams at birth, suckle on their mother’s milk until they are about 5 weeks old when they begin to be weaned onto more solid foods.
These young foxes remain in their maternal den for the first 2 months, protected by the female, with the adult male temporarily evicted until the kits are older. Fennec foxes reach sexual maturity at 11 months of age and can live in the wild for up to 12 years.
These animals of the desert are omnivorous and they hunt for food primarily during the cooler nights. The fennec foxes eat a variety of desert vegetation such as grasses, roots, berries, and fruit, as well as insects, small reptiles, and rodents found in and on the sand. They can hear their prey walking around on the soft sand or burrowing into it by using their extremely sensitive hearing.
Fennec foxes, like many other desert-dwelling lifeforms, are well adapted to living in such a dry environment and obtain almost all of the water they require from the vegetation they eat. Their kidneys are specially designed to ensure that they lose as little water as possible in their daily lives.
Threats and population
Fennec foxes have very few common predators in their natural environment due to their agile nature and the fact that they spend the majority of the day sleeping safely in their underground burrows. Although eagles and owls are thought to be the primary predators of fennec foxes, larger mammals such as hyenas, caracals, jackals, and domestic dogs are also thought to prey on them.
People frequently trap and capture fennec foxes in order to sell them as pets, and they are also hunted by locals for their beautiful fur. Apart from that, fennec foxes are also threatened in some areas by habitat loss caused by expanding human settlements.
The IUCN has classified the fennec fox as being of Least Concern from becoming extinct in the wild in the near future. Despite the fact that due to habitat loss and hunting certain fennec fox populations are becoming increasingly threatened.
Kangaroo rat (Dipodomys)
Most species of these desert animals have four toes on each hindfoot and they are small, with bright, dark eyes and big round heads. All the species have powerful hind legs that allow them to jump many times their body length and it is because of their hind legs that they are known as “kangaroo rats.” Their front legs are significantly smaller and their tails, which serve as a balance mechanism, are tufted and longer than the rest of the animal’s body. The kangaroo rat also has slightly longer, soft fur in brown and gray shades, as well as a white belly.
The rodent also has fur-lined cheek pouches and they fill these pouches with seeds and deposit them in caches scattered throughout their territory.
The length of the animal’s jump is the most notable aspect of its behavior as it uses its jump to avoid predators and also uses a move-freeze mode to make it more difficult for predators to find them. They are completely still in this mode, then suddenly move.
These desert animals live in tunnels beneath the desert’s sand or soft soil with each burrow having only one adult. The kangaroo rats stay in these burrows during the hottest part of the day, as well as during storms and other inclement weather, and only come out at night to forage.
Spending the entire day in their burrow allows them to conserve precious water while also avoiding predators. Their burrows are like an apartment, that have different rooms for various functions, like sleeping, playing, and mating rooms for some kangaroo rats. Their territories are usually 200 to 300 feet in diameter and overlap. These animals of the desert are usually solitary, but they gather in groups to mate and hunt for food.
Males appear to have a social hierarchy, with more dominant males having more access to females when the time for breeding comes. They have also been seen fighting each other by leaping into the air and kicking each other with their hind legs. Unlike the aggression of the males, female kangaroo rats are more tolerant and are less likely to result in fights than the other sex.
Despite the fact that these animals have a wide range of vocalizations, the majority of species communicate to one another by drumming their feet on the soft sandy soil.
Kangaroo rats are found in deserts ranging from sea level to 7000 feet above sea level and at this elevation, the Ord’s kangaroo rat is common. This species is also notable for its ability to live in burrows dug into shifting sand dunes.
The diet of this desert animal consists primarily of seeds and beans, which they collect in their cheek pouches and transport back to their territories. Creosote bushes, ocotillos, and mesquite produce these seeds and beans. The animal gathers more seeds than it requires at one time and saves them for later use.
Before taking seeds into their burrow, giant kangaroo rats allow them to dry out in haystacks, which are piles or pits. When there are not enough seeds or other vegetation, the rodents will eat moths, grasshoppers, and other insects. They have also been observed to consume commercial grains such as wheat.
When it comes to reproduction, these rodents do not mate for life or limit themselves to one partner. But when a female is fertile, she will mate with a large number of males. Before mating, the male and female will chase each other around in a playful manner to an onlooker. When these animals are about three months old, they are ready to mate, and the female can produce several litters of three pups per year. When there is plenty of food, the rate of reproduction increases.
Before giving birth, the female passes through a gestation period of about a month, and before giving birth, she constructs a fur-lined nest. The newborn babies are blind and furless, and they are weaned after about 25 days and are independent by their third week of life, though they can stay with their mother for a few more months.
Threats and population
These desert animals are preyed upon by a plethora of predators as almost every carnivorous animal that lives or visits the desert, including pet dogs and cats, sees them as prey. Their traditional habitat is also being taken over for agriculture and human housing.
The population statistics vary depending on the species. For instance, the giant kangaroo rat is listed as threatened most common type, Ord’s kangaroo rat is considered of least concern in the United States, though it is vulnerable in Western Canada. The IUCN Red List considers Merriam’s kangaroo rat to be of least concern, but it is listed as endangered on the US Federal List.
Coyote (Canis latrans)
This desert animal has a wolf-like appearance, with yellow eyes, a floppy tail, and extremely large ears in relation to body size. The opulent coat is made up of soft underfur and longer, tougher outer hairs. This fur has a unique color combination of gray, brown, and almost yellow on the upper body, with white mostly around the stomach and throat, and red-brown all over the muzzle and feet. The exact color of the fur may vary depending on the subspecies geographical range. The Coyotes shed their fur once a year in the summer, replacing it with a completely new coat.
A coyote can grow to be 37 inches long from head to the beginning of the tail, plus another 16 inches along the tail. The entire body can weigh up to 50 lbs, though females are slightly smaller than males on average. The coyote is roughly the size of a medium dog, such as a bearded collie.
One intriguing aspect of their behavior is that they have a highly fluid social arrangement. Despite the fact that large packs are not usually the norm, this species seeks comfort and cooperation in pairs or family units with established dominance hierarchies. Because of its highly malleable and adaptable social behavior, the coyote is equally at ease hunting alone or with a pack. Even when it hunts in a pack, it may hunt larger animals that require teamwork to take down.
The coyote has a truly vast repertoire of sounds, body language, and scent signals with which it communicates. It is thought to be one of North America’s most vocal mammals as these vocalizations serve to alert other members of the pack, convey a greeting, or announce the animal’s presence. These animals sound similar to dogs and wolves, with a variety of barks, howls, and growls.
These desert animals display aggression by arching their backs and emitting a threatening growl and this display of strength is especially important when competing for pack dominance with other members. A low body posture and yelping sounds, on the other hand, can indicate submission to a more dominant member.
Another important aspect of their communication is the scent which is a signaling device to other members, the species has a specialized gland located right around the tail which it uses to produce the scent to mark their territory on rocks, bushes, and other objects.
Coyotes are extremely intelligent and resourceful animals and they are unlikely to be able to follow human commands, unlike dogs. However, their cunning has long been noted, and it has been observed that these desert animals are capable of planning out hunting strategies in advance.
These animals are excellent diggers due to their long claws, but they prefer to find and enlarge abandoned dens made by badgers, woodchucks, or other animals. For many years to come, these burrows serve as homes and a natural base for their hunting range. Coyotes are nocturnal hunters, meaning they sleep during the day and hunt at night. With the nighttime being the busiest of their day.
Coyotes are found throughout most of North America, as far south as Panama to as far north as Canada and Alaska, though it is most common in the Great Plains. This incredibly adaptable creature has evolved to live in mountains, swamps, forests, plains, deserts, and even tropical rainforests. These animals have learned to coexist with humans in urban and suburban settings as they have become more frequent. The range occasionally overlaps with that of wolves, but as wolf populations have declined, these animals have profited greatly by claiming these ranges.
Numerous people are unaware that the coyote is an omnivorous animal with the vast majority of its diet consisting of small mammals like rabbits, squirrels, and mice, as well as occasionally larger mammals like deer. The rest of the diet consists of birds, snakes, insects, and even fruits and vegetables on occasion. By keeping these abundant animal populations in check, these animals play an important ecological role in the desert food web. However, if coyotes hunt down threatened species, this can be detrimental to local wildlife biodiversity.
These animals of the desert tend to favor hunting live animals, sometimes with the help of their pack and sometimes by sneaking up on prey alone, but they won’t turn down a feast of dead carrion if it’s available. A few coyotes have figured out how to eat human food or leftover garbage.
The breeding season of the coyote lasts only a few months each year, between January and March. Males and females may form pairs for several years at a time, but not always for life. Because the female is only in heat for a few days out of the year, they have a limited time to make babies.
After about 2 months of carrying her pups in the womb, the female will give birth to six pups on average within the confines of the den. The maximum litter size is a whopping 19 puppies. Because the children are born small, blind, and nearly helpless, both parents assist in feeding and carrying them, though the mother is in charge of the majority of nursing duties. It takes about a month for the pups to fully wean, after which they are fed regurgitated food by their parents.
Around six to nine months of age, the young coyotes will be completely independent of their parents. With the males frequently leaving the pack to seek their own fortune, whereas the females will stay with the pack for much longer, sometimes helping to raise and feed the subsequent young. Within their first year, these animals reach full size and sexual maturity. The average coyote can live for up to ten years in the wild and 18 to twenty years in captivity.
Wolves, bears, cougars, and other large predators have been known to prey on these desert animals. But it has only a few natural predators in the wild due to its size, speed, and ferocity. Predators find it easier to prey on a young, aging, or injured coyote than on an adult.
More commonly, these animals compete for space and food with bears, wolves, and big cats. Because of their smaller size in comparison to the largest apex predators, they are easily muscled out of prime hunting areas. This is made worse by the fact that coyotes’ and wolves’ diets frequently overlap.
Human activity has an impact on these animals, just like it does on all other species. Hunting is most likely the most serious threat to coyote survival. Humans kill approximately 400,000 coyotes each year, according to National Geographic as a result of retaliation from the animal’s killing cattle. These animals are also frequently hunted for sport or for their fur.
The coyote is a species of least concern, according to the IUCN Red List, which tracks the conservation status of many known animals. The population of these desert animals is growing in most of their natural range despite the fact that coyotes are hunted and killed in large numbers every year. This is due to the fact that these animals have adapted remarkably well to human civilization. The extinction of local wolves, bears, and cougars may have contributed to the increase in coyote numbers. However, the exact population numbers are not known.
Dromedary (Camelus dromedarius)
Dromedary Camel, also known as the Arabian Camel, and One-Humped Camel is a large hoofed animal found in the hot deserts of Northern Africa and the Middle East. These hardy animals, which are thought to have been domesticated by native people more than 5,000 years ago, have proven vital to the survival of humans in these areas because they are not only used for transporting both people and goods, but they also provide a good source of milk, meat, and wool.
This animal is perfectly adapted to life in the desert where food and water are frequently scarce and the temperature fluctuates rapidly from scorching-hot days to cooler nights making it one of the most unique mammals on earth. Despite the fact that they were once found freely roaming the Arabian deserts, they are now extinct in the wild, but the domestic population is widespread and numerous.
These desert animals have their cream to brown colored, short but thick fur that not only protects their skin from the sun during the day but also helps to keep them warm when the temperature drops at night. Their long legs keep them high above the hot ground, and their two toes on each foot can spread wide apart to keep them from sinking into the sand. The bottoms of their feet are also padded to aid them when walking through rocky or stony terrain. All these are a number of adaptations that help them survive in such dry and arid climates.
These animals of the desert have large eyes and nostrils that allow them to see and smell well. They also have long, eyelashes that are double layered and can close their slit-like nostrils to protect themselves from dust storms. These desert animals can go for long periods of time without food or water because they store fat in their hump, which can be used to provide energy when resources are scarce. These animals are multi-stomach animals, with three distinct stomachs that specialize in absorbing as many nutrients as possible from their harsh environment.
Traditionally, the Camel would have wandered the deserts of Northern Africa, the Middle East, and as far into Asia as western India, where the environment can range from soft, powdery sand dunes to hostile and rocky terrain. Unfortunately, these animals are no longer found in the wild, but they are still kept as domestic animals in these areas, where they provide both transportation and serve as an important source of food for the locals.
Their ability to go for extended periods of time without food or water, as well as their capacity to carry heavy loads, has allowed people to travel further across the desert. Today, there are millions of domestic Camels in the desert, as well as a feral population in Central Australia’s deserts.
Camels live in these dry and arid regions in herds of up to 40 individuals, which are made up of females with their young and are led by a single, dominant male. The dominant males defend and protect their female harem by biting, spitting, and leaning on rival males during the breeding season. These animals sleep by lying down and bending their front legs underneath them, then their back legs. They are also known to walk in a manner distinct from that of many mammals, by moving both left legs first, followed by both right legs.
These desert animals have a small number of sweat glands (very few in comparison to their large body size) to try to conserve vital moisture in such hostile conditions, which, combined with the fact that they will allow their body temperature to rise in the heat. This simply means that they lose water much more slowly than other large mammals.
Even though the Camel is obviously an herbivorous animal, their diet is not entirely vegetarian, as they have been known to chew on bones and eat carrion to supplement their diet. The Camel’s split, leathery lip, allows it to eat tough and thorny desert plants, especially those plants that other desert animals avoid. They are also known to consume plants high in salt, implying that there is less competition for food from other animals.
Amongst the most remarkable characteristics of camels is their ability to store energy from food and water as fat in their hump, allowing them to have a ready supply of energy when food and water are scarce. Camels can lose up to 40% of their body weight before needing to replenish themselves, and once they find a water hole or oasis and in a very short time, they can drink up to 40 gallons of water.
These desert animals can breed when they are 3 to 4 years old for females and 5 years old for males, at which point the dominant male of the herd has breeding rights with the females. During the breeding season, which typically lasts from November to March, both female and male Camels go into heat. After a long gestation period of up to 13 months, the female gives birth to either a single calf or twins, which can weigh as much as 40kg at birth.
Inside eight hours after delivery, the young calf is able to stand and is nursed by its mother in the safety of the herd until it is large and strong enough to be self-sufficient. Young Camels start eating grass between the ages of 2 and 3 months and are weaned around the age of 4 months.
Even though they no longer exist in the wild, the Camel’s large size suggests that it would have had few predators. Lions and Leopards would have been their greatest familiar predators, but because Camels live in hostile, arid environments with few large, carnivorous mammals, they would not have been hunted as frequently as other hoofed herbivores.
Despite the fact that they were first domesticated by humans more than 5,000 years ago, they would have been poached for their meat and hides for much longer. Their domestic population is large, and they can be found alongside people from Northern Africa to Western Asia.
They are common as domestic animals in much of their native environment and beyond, with estimates ranging as high as 20 million individuals. The first Camel was imported into Australia in the 1800s to help people get around the vast desert. Ever since, more and more have followed, resulting in a strong feral population of possibly up to 1 million Camels roaming the deserts of Central Australia.
Meerkat (Suricata suricatta)
The Meerkat (also referred to as the Suricate) is a relatively tiny foraging mammal that lives in the harsh conditions of southern Africa’s open, arid, and semi-desert plains. These desert animals are members of the Mongoose family, but differ from the other 35 Mongoose species in a number of ways, the most notable being that they are extremely sociable animals, whereas most Mongooses are not (only 3 other species are known to live in groups larger than pairs).
There are 3 distinct sub-species of this desert animal found in various geographic locations, and while they look very similar, they differ slightly in fur coloration and markings. However, all species live in highly organized communities known as gangs or bands, which depend on one another for self-preservation in such hostile conditions. While the majority of the group is out foraging for food, others keep watching to see if there are any advancing predators.
This is an animal with a long slender body and a long light tail with a black tip that can almost double the animal’s total length. Meerkats have eight darker stripes on their back, markings on their sides (which are unique to each individual), and a lighter face and underside and they have long muzzles, a black nose, and dark bands around their eyes.
Meerkats have curved, long, sharp claws on their front paws that can grow up to 2cm long and these long sharp claws help them dig their tunnels and locate small animals hidden beneath the soft sand. The Meerkat’s fur has actually adapted remarkably to the varying desert conditions, not only keeping the animal cool during the scorching summer days but also acting as a layer of insulation to keep it warm during the freezing-cold winter nights.
The Meerkat lives in the dry and hostile scrublands of the Kalahari Desert in southern and western Africa. They can be found in five different countries in southern Africa, from Angola to South Africa, foraging for food on the ground during the day and retiring to their massive tunnels in the sand at night.
This animal is a highly sociable animal that lives in desert territories in groups of 10 to 30 individuals (though much larger bands are not uncommon in areas with an abundant supply of food), and consists of 3 or 4 family units of a male and female pair, with their young. The majority of the band goes off to forage for food after emerging from their hole in the ground to sunbathe in the early morning sun, while others either babysit the young or act as guards.
Meerkat guards have a better vantage point to watch out for approaching predators, particularly from the sky, by standing upright on their back legs and tails on the tops of mounds and in bushes. Then, one of a variety of alarm calls will be sounded to warn the rest of the band of the danger, often causing the entire band to dive into their underground burrow to hide.
Although a band may have several breeding pairs, Meerkat society is generally dominated by one male and a female pair. Young Meerkats are typically born in November after a gestation period of approximately 11 weeks. After mating with her partner at the beginning of the summer, the female Meerkat gives birth to 2 – 5 small kits in a grass-lined chamber in the burrow, which are born blind and without their full coat of fur.
Unlike many other small mammal species, both females and males tend to their young, with males and siblings known to help teach the young Meerkats survival skills in the surrounding desert. While the rest of the band is out foraging for food, the young Meerkats never leave the den and are kept safe while playing in the hot sand by an appointed babysitter. Meerkats can live in the wild for up to ten years, but they have been known to live for much longer in captivity.
This is a carnivorous animal, which implies that despite its relatively small size, it only forages for and eats small animals to get all of the nutrition and most of the moisture it requires to survive. Meerkats have an excellent sense of smell like other Mongoose species, which they use to detect potential prey lurking just beneath the surface of the sand. Meerkats use their long sharp front claws to dig out their prey after being detected, with the majority of their diet consisting of insects and other small invertebrates, as well as larger animals such as lizards and rodents.
Meerkats must spend a significant portion of their waking hours foraging for food due to their small size and adaptation to living in such a harsh environment. They are known to lose around 5% of their body weight during the night and must therefore ensure that they have enough to eat every day.
Because of their small size, Meerkats are natural prey for a variety of animal species both on the ground and in the air. Birds of prey such as Hawks and Eagles, which can spot these animals from high above, pose the greatest threat to Meerkats, as do ground-dwelling predators such as snakes, which hunt them on the ground.
Meerkats use the safety in numbers tactic to protect themselves from being so vulnerable in their open and arid surroundings, ensuring that there is always an individual on guard like a watchman to signal and sound the alarm bells to the rest of the group of any approaching danger. They have been known to contract bovine diseases and rabies in areas closer to growing human settlements and near areas where domestic animals are grazed. This bovine disease and rabies is a great threat to meerkats because they can affect an entire population of these adaptable and resilient animals.
Meerkats are now listed by the IUCN as being of Least Concern for becoming extinct in their natural habitat in the near future. Although they are widespread and common across much of their natural range. Populations in some areas can be impacted by a lack of rainfall or an increase in the number of their natural predators. Meerkats populations in Southern Africa, appear to be relatively stable, with large numbers of Meerkats also found in a few of the major national parks.
What animals live in the desert ecosystem?
Some animals that live in the desert ecosystem include Jerboa, Vulture, Jackrabbit, Bactrian camel, Badger, Kitfox, Sand cat, Peccaries, Bats, Hares, and Tortoise.
Gila monster (Heloderma suspectum)
Gila monster is one of 4 venomous lizards in North America and amongst the largest lizards in the United States of America. This animal that lives in the desert belongs to the kingdom Animalia, the class Reptilia, and the family Helodermatidae.
Despite the fact that there appear to be no records of the largest giant Gila monster, it is estimated that this desert animal can grow to be 22 inches long and weigh 4 pounds. Even though it is classified as being a large reptile, it is still smaller in size than its cousins, the beaded lizards that can grow to be as long as 36 inches long and as heavy as 9 pounds. The Gila monster, on the other hand, is a more colorful lizard than most of its cousins.
Though it’s difficult to tell male and female monsters apart, the striking difference is that the head of the male Gila monster is larger and more triangular in shape than that of the female Gila monster.
This desert animal is well-known for the skin on its body that is covered in scales, just like other reptiles, but the scales contain tiny, round bones called osteoderms. These osteoderms can be found all over the animal except on its belly, where the skin creates styles of yellow or pink color against the black color.
The animal’s legs, feet, neck, head, and chin are all black, as are its eyes and tongue. The styles on the lizard’s skin become more complex as it ages, though Gila monsters in the north tend to retain the style they had as youths. No two of these animals have the same scale pattern, just like fingerprints on our fingers.
In captivity, the Gila monster lives for about 8 years, though at least one lizard lived for 20 years. But they have been known to live in the wild for up to 40 years.
This animal, like other lizards, sheds its skin as it grows and females are notable for shedding their skin in one large piece in the two weeks before they lay eggs. Males shed their skin in patches, while younger Gila monsters appear to shed all the time.
These desert animals are usually solitary and spend a lot of time hidden in burrows and they only come out of their tunnels to hunt and warm up in the sun. During the breeding season, males have been known to fight for mating rights just like Sumo wrestlers, and the person who pins his opponent to the ground wins. Otherwise, the reptile is thought to be docile. The lizard does not migrate, but rather alternates between shelters every few days and these shelters can also be crevices and thickets, in addition to underground burrows.
This desert animal comes out from its shelter in the morning during the dry season and during the summer, it may come out at night whenever the air is warm or after the severely hot sun has set, because it requires a body temperature of about 86 ℉ to survive. If the lizard becomes overheated, it can cool down by expressing water through its cloaca, a ventral opening via which they both excrete and reproduce.
The Gila lizard lives in the deserts and dry areas of southern Nevada but it can also be found in southern and western Arizona, the southwest part of New Mexico, southwestern Utah, and down into Mexico’s Sonora and Sinaloa states.
When it comes to food, the animal isn’t picky because they can go for months without eating and only require a few meals per year to maintain their health. Their diet includes young mammalian animals like rabbits, ground squirrels, and mice. The Gila monster also feeds on lizards, insects, eggs, snakes, frogs, and birds that are small enough for it to ingest and these animals are also not afraid to eat carrion.
This desert animal like a snake has a forked tongue that can pick up molecules of a specific scent and hunts using its keen sense of smell. The molecules are sent by the tongue to the Jacobson organ, which is located at the top of the lizard’s mouth.
When the Gila monster is 4 to 5 years old, it is sexually mature and its mating season begins in April or May when food is plentiful. The male looks for a receptive female, flicking his tongue to pick up her scent and when he eventually finds a female, he will use his chin to caress her back and neck while clasping her with his hind legs. The female Gila monster will then bite him and crawl out from under him if she doesn’t want him.
But if she’s interested, she will raise her tail, and he will position his tail beneath hers to ensure their cloacae make contact. They’ll stay that way for 30 minutes to an hour, though some mating sessions have lasted as little as 15 minutes, and as long as 2.5 hours. If the females are willing, males will mate with several females.
After mating, the female Gila monster will be pregnant for 2 to 3 months before laying her eggs in an underground hole in late summer. The female Gila monster may utilize a ground squirrel’s burrow, but she really does not incubate or protect the eggs. In October, the already laid eggs hatch but baby Gila monsters or hatchlings immediately enter brumation and do not emerge until the following May.
When a Gila monster hatchling is born, it is ready to fend for itself, which means it can bite and inject venom. The hatchlings are about 6 inches long and feed on their internal yolk sac until they can emerge and find food. Their parents do not provide care for them like how mammals provide care for their younglings.
Threats and population
Gila monsters, like many other animals, are most vulnerable to becoming prey when they are young. Snakes, particularly the Kingsnake, appear to prefer Gila monster hatchlings. Coyotes, larger birds of prey, and badgers prey on older lizards. Because the lizard moves slowly, predators can easily pounce on it once it’s out in the open and subdue it before it can defend itself. A badger may even dig a Gila monster out of its burrow.
Humans, admittedly, pose a significant threat to the Gila monster, because the lizard population is declining due to human encroachment and habitat destruction. Some people keep wild Gila monsters as pets, despite the fact that doing so is illegal in some states.
Another reason for the decline of this desert animal is drought, which is likely being exacerbated by climate change.
Red knee tarantulas (Brachypelma smithi)
A red knee tarantula with the scientific name Brachypelma smithi, is an animal that lives in the desert. Brachypelma is a Greek word that means “short (brachys) sole/foot” (pelma) and Smithi refers to this specific species of tarantula. Tarantulas are classified into 1,010 different species and they are distinguished from other types of spiders by the presence of hair on their bodies and legs. In addition, some tarantulas have 4 spinnerets for spinning webs and some have silk-producing glands on their feet, whereas spiders have these glands in their abdomen.
This spider’s name comes from its coloration, with the large abdomen of this desert animal covered in dark brown hairs, whereas it has dark brown and cream-colored hairs on its cephalothorax. Apart from that, each of this spider’s knee joints is covered in bright red or orange hairs.
The dark brown and red/orange color pattern on the mature tarantula forms when they are several months old after birth. This simply means that the baby red knee tarantulas commonly known as spiderlings do not have the full-body coloration that an adult will have. The colorful hairs on its legs are designed to detect ground vibrations and these vibrations assist these spiders in navigating their environment safely. They also have palps (a pair of elongated segmented appendages), which aid in taste and smell.
Red knee tarantula is 5 to 6 inches long in size and weighs about 0.5 ounces on average. It also has a 10-inch diameter at its widest point.
If a red knee tarantula feels threatened by a predator, it will usually seek refuge in its burrow. It will occasionally stand up on its back legs to reveal its fangs in order to scare away the threat. One of the most intriguing features of this spider is the presence of barbed hairs on the underside of its abdomen.
To defend itself, it can fire these barbed hairs at predators, and these hairs can become lodged in the body of a predator, causing itching and irritation. They can cause temporary blindness if they land in a predator’s eyes.
Except during the breeding season, this tarantula lives alone.
Mexico, Panama, and the southwestern United States are home to red knee tarantulas. Where they are found in deserts, scrublands, and dry forests. These desert animals are shy creatures who seek out hiding places like the base of a cactus plant where they usually dig to hide. A wild one may make its way into a shed or garage and nest between a stack of old boxes or behind a dusty collection of brooms, shovels, and other tools laying more emphasis on its shyness. Otherwise, if a red knee tarantula is found in a home, it is almost always a pet.
One of the most interesting facts about these carnivorous spiders is that they usually allow their food to come to them. They hide in their burrows and await the arrival of a lizard, cricket, or other prey. When the animal gets too close, the tarantula grabs it and bites it with its venomous fangs paralyzing the prey, and the venom liquefies the insides of the animal aiding the spider to easily feed on the liquified parts.
What animals live in the desert habitat?
Animals that live in the desert habitat are Bobcats, Roadrunner, Beetles, African Elephant, Cheetah, Spotted hyenas,
and Ground squirrels
Addax (Addax nasomaculatus)
This desert animal commonly known as the white antelope is known for its beautiful coat color and, in particular, its spiral horns. Male addax is slightly larger than females, standing 41 to 45 inches at the shoulder compared to 37 – 43 inches at the shoulder for females. Also, males are heavier, weighing between 220 and 276 pounds, compared to females, who weigh between 130 and 200 pounds. The sense of smell and peripheral vision of this animal are both excellent, allowing it to track the rains.
The coat of the A. nasomaculatus changes with the seasons, for example, in the winter it is mostly gray-brown with white legs and rump. While in the summer, the coat turns almost entirely white or blond. Between the horns, there is a tuft of brown hair that flows down into a mane, and on the face, there are patches on the nose that form an X. The creature also has a beard, red nostrils, and a short tail with a black tassel.
The legs of this animal of the desert are short, and while the legs and feet are designed for endurance, they are not designed for speed. The animal’s knees appear to barely bend to onlookers, as the animal moves. As a result of their short legs, predators such as lions, hyenas, and humans find it easy to prey on. The horns of the addax can grow to be as long as 33 inches, but the longest horns ever recorded were 43 inches long. In the center and bottom of the horns, there are 30 to 35 ridges which give it a spiral look.
Surprisingly, Addax is primarily nocturnal, as the cooler night temperatures allow them to move more freely. They excavate depressions in the shade and lie down in them during the day’s heat. Their light-colored coats help to keep them cool by reflecting heat.
This animal lives in herds, which are believed to be either led by an alpha male or an alpha female. This is because the females form a hierarchy, with the oldest females dominating and the male establishing territories that protect the females who live within them. Although herds used to be large, they are now made up of 5 to 20 individuals with males sparring with other males over females using their horns. Following the rains, Addax herds travel long distances to find vegetation.
The white antelope feeds on grasses such as tussocks, wiregrass, and panic grass seeds. If the grass is not available, it will eat the leaves of small trees and shrubs. These plant foods provide the animal with enough water that it does not need to drink.
A. nasomaculatus is a desert animal that migrates from savannas to grasslands. Regrettably, it has become extinct in areas where it once roamed freely, like Egypt, Mauritania, and Western Sahara.
When the female addax is about one and a half years old, she is ready to breed, and the male reaches sexual maturity in about 3 years. Because dominant males protect females in their territory, the dominant male mates with the fertile females in his herd. Though addax can breed all year, they prefer to do so in the early spring or late winter when the food supply is high.
After a pregnancy of fewer than 9 months, the female gives birth to one calf. Calves weigh approximately 11 pounds at birth and are weaned at the age of 7 months. Only a few days after giving birth does the female re-enter estrus.
The white antelope has a lifespan of about 19 years in the wild, but it can be extended by another 6 years or so if well cared for in captivity.
Addax has always been preyed upon by carnivores such as leopards, hyenas, and cheetahs because they cannot outrun their predators. Even if they were fast, they are no match for humans who valued their meat and hides or simply wanted to hang their heads with their magnificent horns on their walls.
Once conditions are moist, Addax also tends to harbor parasites nematode parasites which are the most common antelope parasites. These parasites are detrimental to their health, thereby affecting them seriously if not treated.
As a result of the declining population of this white antelope since the mid-nineteenth century, to their current state f being critically endangered. There are now thousands of addaxes in zoos and private menageries. Apart from that, conservation strategies have been implemented in several countries, including Algeria and Morocco to secure and increase their population.
There are possibly only 500 of these antelopes left in the wild, but there are likely thousands in zoos or private menageries.
FAQ on what animals live in the desert
What animals live in the desert biome?
Animals that live in the desert biome include camel, fennec fox, ostrich, sand cat, tarantulas, bobcat, coyote, cougar, rattlesnake, and badger just to mention a few.
What animals live in the desert in Australia?
Animals that live in the desert in Australia include Kangaroo, Greater Bilby (Mankarr), Black-flanked Rock-Wallaby (Warru), Pink Cockatoo, Great Desert Skink (Mulyamiji), and camels.
What animals live in the desert food web?
Animals that live in the desert food web include kangaroo rat, fennec fox, and cougar in that order.
What animals live in the desert with camels?
Camels live with Gila monster, tarantula, jerboa, kangaroo rat, kangaroo, and wallaby in the desert.
What animals live in the desert of Africa?
Camel, Meerkat, Addax, and Fennec fox to mention a few of the animals that live in the desert of Africa.
Joseph enjoys writing and learning about the fields of ecology and biology. He has experience teaching both of these subjects at a variety of universities as an adjunct professor. In his free time Joseph enjoys, surfing with his kids and going on multi-day backpacking trips.