When it came to the animal life in the desert, I was profoundly
fascinated over how savvy the variety of animals were! Again,
"adaptation" was the main priority. Many desert animals were
nocturnal, in that they were active at night. And most of the
diurnal, daytime animals were keyed to the shade where they
could find it. Also some animals had their own inner thermostats,
such as the cold-blooded snakes. And snakes, too, have special
eye coverings that protect from the sand and the dust.
Additionally, as part of adaptation, some animals employed
camouflage that they could skillfully use in the predator-prey
relationship. For example the Sidewinder Snake has colorings
that match the desert. It can simply stay still, in place, and wait
for its prey to march by. And the Coyote also utilizes camouflage,
in that its fur blends into the desert surroundings.
There are far too many particular animals to discuss, rather I will
discuss only a couple that convey this sense of adaptation.
The little Kangaroo Rat has so many adaptations that it actually
never has to drink water. It gets all the moisture it requires
from dry seeds. The Bighorn Sheep--the largest of desert mammals--
can consume 23% of its weight in one visit to a water hole, hence
it is able to go for long periods without water Additionally, it eats
tender young flower stalks of Agave, which are a source of both
water and carbohydrates. And one of the more interesting
examples, in terms of survival, is the Chuckwalla, a large lizard.
If frightened, pursued by a predator, it can squeeze through cracks
of rock, into a crevice, and actually inflate itself by swallowing air--
thus, a predator cannot pull the lizard out from the crevice.
I could go on and on referring to specific animals, how smart,
how savvy they are when it comes to survival. Instead, however,
I'll be more general. Plain and simple, desert animals are better
adapted to withstand high-temperatures than others. Basically
they survive by avoiding the heat. More specifically:
• Animals live as much as possible in the shade. Some find
shade under leaves and rocks.
• Most desert animals live underground, either immediately under
the sand or deeper down in burrows. Temperatures beneath the
surface are much cooler than those on the desert floor. Some
animals do not dig their own burrows but install themselves in
homes built by others.
• Most animals search for food during the night or in the cool dawn.
Some rise early, hunt, and go back into hiding before the day's
heat; they hunt again in the cool hours of dusk, also. Others do
not go abroad until night.
Also, we often hear about a given "food chain;" but in the desert as
well as in other environs, there's also the "food web." Put simply,
plants produce food through photosynthesis. Plants are consumed
by plant-eaters (herbivores). In turn they may be eaten by meat-
eaters (carnivores). Some consumers eat both plants and animals
(omnivores). Dead animals are eaten by scavengers. Decomposers
break down the remains of both animals and plants, returning basic
chemicals into the soil where they are again available to plants. As
put, food webs make up the cycles of life and death.
For me, living in the desert, studying life in the desert, proved utterly
profound. Again, I was able to appreciate the incredible intelligence
required to survive in this environment. Life is just so amazing!