1 High winds often whip across a desert, blowing bits of sand and dust. The temperature can
climb to over 100ļF during the day, and the desertís clear skies offer little protection from the
sunís hot rays. Also, little rain falls in a desert; the average amount is only ten inches a year.
This rainfall is unpredictable too. It may rain for several days, and then not rain again for a few
years! Even though the desert presents such tough challenges, some
creatures still call this
place home. How have they adapted to life in a hot, dry place?
2 Desert animals have found several ways to beat the heat. Most animals know the best trick.
They sleep during the day and creep out during the evening hours when itís cooler. Tortoises,
foxes, snakes, some lizards, and rodents all spend their days napping in underground burrows.
Here the temperature stays about 86ļF. The kangaroo rat even shuts the door to its burrow. He
fills it with dirt to keep out the heat and any unwanted
visitors. Other animals, like the desert
toad, sleep much longer than a day. They bury themselves in a cool burrow and sleep right
through the hottest part of the summer.
3 Desert animals also have physical traits that help them handle the heat. For example, jack
rabbits and foxes have large ears with lots of tiny blood veins. Heat escapes from the veins.
This helps cool their bodies. Another helpful feature is a thick coat. Instead of keeping it warm,
a camelís thick coat blocks out the sunís hot rays. Finally, many desert animals have light-
colored fur, feathers, or scales. The pale colors absorb less heat. They
help the animals hide in
the sand too.
4 One of the biggest challenges of desert living is not the heat but the lack of water. Desert
animals must find ways to obtain enough water in their diet. One animal solves this problem by
making its own water. The kangaroo rat eats dry seeds, but its body changes the seeds into
food and water. This animal never needs to take one drink during its lifetime!
5 Other animals, like snakes, get water from the prey they eat. Still others get water when they
eat plants. Leaves and cacti contain lots of liquid. Of course, some animals do need to take a
drink, and the camel can take the largest drink of all. It may gulp down thirty gallons in ten
minutes! Some people assume this water is stored in the camelís hump, but actually the hump
only stores fat. The water a camel needs to survive is stored in its
blood and cells.
6 Today, many animals live successfully in the deserts around the world. In the Sahara Desert
alone, there are forty different kinds of rodents, such as mice and gerbils. There are almost one
hundred kinds of reptiles. These creatures all have one thing in common. They have learned to
adapt to their hot, dry home.