25 animals living in the desert – Pedagogical expertise
The desert can be a hot, waterless place. Your mind might automatically turn to a snake or a camel in the sun, stepping on a sand dune. But there are plenty of animals that thrive in the hot desert climate.
Whether you study the Sonoran Desert in North America or the hot deserts of North Africa, learning about desert animals is sure to captivate your students. Read on for a list of animals that thrive in various types of deserts.
1. African lion
The African lion is perhaps one of the best known in the animal kingdom. As the pride leader, the male lions make sure the females and cubs are safe. These magnificent carnivores live in grasslands and places like the Kalahari Desert.
Learn more: San Diego Zoo
2. Mojave Rattlesnake
Like most snakes, the Mojave Rattlesnake prefers to move about at night in cold deserts. They can be found living around Joshua trees or in areas that don’t have many desert plants. During the winter, they took their bodies three feet underground to mist them.
Learn more: National Park Service
3. Tarantula spiders
These commonly feared spiders live in the southwestern United States as well as Mexico. Most people are frightened by their hairy legs and large size, but they actively stay away from people. Turns out their venomous bite won’t kill you. Isn’t animal life wild?
Read more: Insect identification
4. Lizard Brush
These lizards find creosote bushes to sit on. This allows them to become one with the branch for protection and shelter. They like lots of sand where they can find spiders and other insects to nibble on. You will find these lizards by visiting the deserts of the American West.
Read more: Bird and hiking
5. Alligator Lizard
Can you believe that these lizards can live up to fifteen years! That’s longer than most dogs. These cool looking lizards don’t live in Florida like you might think. Their 30 centimeter bodies slither across the west and live in a myriad of habitats, including the desert.
Read more: Animalia
6. Antelope Squirrel
These omnivores are also called antelope chipmunks. They have round ears and are quite small at around eight inches long. Their lower areas are white while their tops are brown. They like to dig holes and are similar to vultures in that they eat spoiled animal remains.
Learn more: Pets on Mom
7. Kangaroo Rat
Sometimes called kangaroo mice, these rats move around by hopping on their hind legs like a kangaroo. Fun Facts: They can jump up to nine feet in the air and don’t need to consume water. Their main source of water comes from their food.
Learn more: Nevada Department of Wildlife
8. Jackrabbit Antelope
Did you know that these adorable bunnies usually only live for a year? This is because so many other animals eat them to survive. The antelope hare, desert rabbit, and black-tailed hare all look alike and belong to the family Leporidae.
Find out more: Desert Museum
9. Dromedary camel
Camels are the favorite species of the desert. The iconic dromedary camel should not be confused with the Bactrian camel, which has two humps. Notice how the large dromedary camel in this photo has only one hump for a less comfortable ride.
Find out more: National History Museum
10. Desert Hedgehog
These nocturnal hedgehogs live in many deserts in the Middle East and Africa. They are super tiny, weighing less than a pound! Their salt and pepper spines help them blend into the desert biome as they sleep during the day.
Learn more: Fact Zoo
11. Mojave Desert Turtle
Here are some fun facts about the Mojave Desert Tortoise for you. These western herbivores are often confused with the Sonoran Desert Tortoise, but they are quite different. As humans continue to build and use land, many of these turtles have unfortunately perished due to massive habitat loss.
Learn more: United States Fish and Wildlife Service
12. Red-tailed Hawks
Since the young chicks do not do well in extreme temperatures, the red-tailed hawk nests in late winter or early spring. The cooler months contribute to successful breeding in northern Utah, where desert conditions can be harsh.
Read more: On The Wing Photography
13. Elf Owl
These nocturnal visionaries are the smallest living owls with wings that only span about eleven inches. Because they’re so small, they’re also very light, making them quiet in flight. This allows them to capture their prey quietly while flying in the Kuneer Desert.
Read more: Guardians of Ga’Hoole
14. Arabian Oryx
The Arabian oryx had a period of time when it did not exist in the wild. Efforts have been made to raise them and then reintroduce them to their original homes. Luckily, it worked well, and they went from wild “extinct” to “vulnerable.”
Find out more: Fauna & Flora International
15. Lappet-faced Vulture
This particular vulture is the largest in Africa. They do not have a developed sense of smell and therefore rely on sight and communication with other scavengers to know where the nearest carcass is. Living on the remains of other animals, these vultures have a life expectancy of about forty years.
Read more: Locations in South Africa
16. Arabian Wolves
These wolves have very large ears that allow them to dissipate body heat. During the winter, their fur changes to keep them warm in the Arabian Peninsula. A unique fact to note about these wolves is that their middle toes are connected!
Read more: The Wolf Intelligencer
17. Spiny Lizards
Lizards love to warm up on rocks or hot sand. There are many types of spiny lizards that live in Arizona and Nevada. One is the common sagebrush lizard and the other is called the southwestern fence lizard. They are both a few centimeters long and quite colorful.
Read more: Bird Watching HQ
18. Sand Cats
Don’t let this adorable sand cat fool you with its looks. Sand cats hunt snakes! Living in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, these cats like to wander around at night to find small animals and vipers to eat. They can go several weeks without drinking a sip of water.
Find out more: One Earth
19. Water-holding frog
It is difficult to know how many of these frogs live in Wales and Australia as they spend years underground. As you may have guessed from their name, they retain large amounts of water in their bladders. They hold water until it rains.
Find out more: Friends of the garden
20. Sidewinder Rattlesnake
These three-foot-long beige snakes will not live above 6,000 feet in elevation. They are able to have nine babies at once and leave their mark on the sand dunes. You’ll know if a Sidewinder Rattlesnake is near because the sand will have a long cane shape imprinted on it.
Learn more: National Park Service
21. Arabian Sand Gazelle
Although they look a lot like deer, the Arabian Sand Gazelles / ReemGopherus are very different. The gazelles pictured here live in the Arabian Peninsula and love finding small patches of green grass to munch on.
Find out more: Environment Agency
22. Hawk Tarantula Wasp
Is it a wasp or a spider? The name makes it difficult to know, but these insects are more like colorful bees and hunt spiders. The one in this photo is a male. You can tell by its antennae. If it were a female, the antennae would be curled.
Find out more: Spruce
23. Gila Monster
Measuring nearly two feet long, these lizards are the largest in the United States. They primarily live in Arizona and can use their teeth to grind venom into their predators. Although they have a varied diet, they prefer to eat eggs and small birds for dinner.
Find out more: Smithsonian National Zoo
24. Bell’s Sparrow Black-chinned Sparrow
This bird species has four subspecies that live in California, Arizona, and Mexico. They particularly like to breed in the central valley. The black-chinned sparrow migrates to find insect larvae to eat all year round, although they do not fly very far.
Read more: PRBO
25. Snow Leopard
These beautiful animals live in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. They are very difficult to see as they blend in perfectly with the rocks on which they rest. But don’t worry if you don’t see them before it’s too late as these leopards are not known to be aggressive.
Read more: Mongolian Ways