45 Animals that Live in the Desert (A to Z List & Pictures)


Deserts are uncompromising places. It takes dedication and resourcefulness to survive in the desert. But animals that live in the desert have several adaptations that allow them to survive the dry habitat and the heat.

In this article, we’re going to go over some of the most renowned, dangerous, and resourceful animals that live in the desert.

Examples of Animals that Live in the Desert

These interesting animals have all it takes to survive in the harshness of the desert.

1. Addax Antelope

Addax Antelope
Scientific NameAddax nasomaculatus
SizeUp to 33 inches

Critically endangered, the addax antelope is native to the Sahara desert. It’s known for its long and twisted horns that are used for self-defense, though it is also seen as a relatively easy target for larger predators because it moves slowly.

2. African Bush Elephant

Scientific NameLoxodonta africana
SizeUp to 13 ft

The name of this elephant species might not reveal the full story about its habitat. While it is primarily found in grasslands and savannas of Subsaharan Africa, it has also found its habitat in the Namib and Sahara deserts. Unfortunately, this mighty elephant is also endangered.

3. Angolan Giraffe

Angolan Giraffe
Scientific NameGiraffa camelopardalis angolensis
SizeUp to 19ft

The giraffe is a towering animal that is known for its long and slender neck. Giraffes also primarily live in savannas and slightly milder habitats, but it’s also found in the Namib desert. 

4. Antelope Jackrabbit

Antelope Jackrabbit
Scientific NameLepus alleni
Size22 in

Native to Arizona and parts of northern Mexico, the antelope jackrabbit is one of the regulars in the desert. There, it often finds itself a prey for larger animals in its habitat. They feed on cacti and grasses, so they don’t need much to survive. They’re also very resilient to heat and harsh conditions.

5. Armadillo Girdled Lizard

Armadillo Girdled Lizard
Scientific NameOuroborus cataphractus
SizeUp to 3.5 inches

The armadillo girdled lizard is a sturdy animal that has several adaptations that allow it to survive harsh desert conditions. First of all, it has a thick outer shell and it’s also known for its ability to hide very well. To protect itself from attacks, it will curl itself into a ball and put its tail into its mouth.

6. Bactrian Camel

Bactrian Camel
Scientific NameCamelus bactrianus
SizeUp to 7ft

Known for its two humps, the Bactrian camel is much rarer than the dromedary. This type of camel is home to the steppes and deserts of Asia. Compared to the dromedary, it’s much hairier and also slightly larger.

7. Black Widow

black widow
Scientific NameLatrodectus
SizeUp to 0.5 in

You’ve probably heard about the black widow. It’s seen one of the deadliest spider species in the world due to its heavily toxic venom. You’ll be able to spot a black widow by the red hourglass shape on its black body, but you’ll probably want to avoid it altogether! Its Australian counterpart, the redback spider, is also capable of living in the desert.

8. Bobcat

Scientific NameLynx rufus
Size50 in

Like some other lynx species out there, the habitat of the bobcat varies wildly. Some live in the forested areas of the northern states of the US and Canada, while others find themselves in a desert. This versatility says a lot about their resourcefulness and their resilient character.

9. Brown Recluse

brown recluse
Scientific NameLoxosceles reclusa
SizeUp to 0.8 in

The other desert spider that you might want to know about is the brown recluse. While this spider is also found in milder habitats and more densely vegetated habitats, it is perfectly capable of surviving in the desert, too. This spider is known for its ability to hide and remain hidden, especially when hunting.

10. Camel Spider

Camel Spider
Scientific NameGaleodes arabs
Size6 inches

Another special type of spider that lives in the desert is the camel spider. During the 2003 Iraq war, these spiders became notorious for their ability to sneak into soldiers’ shoes and attack from there. There have been many myths about this animal as a consequence, too.

11. Cougar

Scientific NamePuma concolor
Size35 in

The term “mountain lion” was established for the cougar because of its affinity to living in rocky areas and mountains. However, that doesn’t mean this animal is not found in the desert; in fact, quite a few cougars live and survive in the desert, too.

12. Coyote

Scientific NameCanis latrans
Size4ft 5in

The coyote is another common inhabitant of deserts. While this animal also lives in other habitats, such as milder forests and grasslands, it’s quite common in the desert. There, it will feed on smaller animals of prey, as it’s a carnivore that doesn’t choose the type of foods it eats.

13. Deathstalker Scorpion

Deathstalker Scorpion
Scientific NameLeiurus quinquestriatus
SizeUp to 3 inches

Among the dangerous creatures that live in deserts is also the deathstalker scorpion. This is one of the most feared scorpions in the world. It is said that the venom of this scorpion will not kill an adult directly, but it can be fatal to children and the elderly.

14. Desert Iguana

Desert Iguana
Scientific NameDipsosaurus dorsalis

Next on the list of animals that live in the desert is the desert iguana. As the name suggests, this little creature is well-adapted to the harsh reality of the desert. They’re herbivorous, so they will eat almost any fruit or herb that they can find on their journey.

15. Desert Pupfish

Scientific NameCyprinodon macularius
Size3 in

A fish in the desert, you might be thinking?! That’s right, the desert pupfish populates the small water bodies that might be present in some desert areas. It was once very common in the arid areas of California, but in recent decades, it has become a vulnerable species because of loss of habitat.

16. Desert Tortoise

Desert Tortoise
Scientific NameGopherus agassizii
Size14 in

The desert tortoise is a long-living desert animal. It can survive for up to 80 years if given the chance. They can live in extremely hot habitats where temperatures go over the 140-degree (Fahrenheit) mark, which is enabled to them by their ability to dig deep burrows, allowing them to escape the heat.

17. Dromedary Camel

Dromedary Camel
Scientific NameCamelus dromedarius
SizeUp to 6.2 ft

The dromedary camel is a camel with one hump on its back. It’s known to be living in the Sahara desert and on the outskirts of the Sahara desert, where it has long been used as a working animal. This camel has first domesticated some 4000 years ago and ever since it has been very important for humans.

18. Fennec Fox

Fennec Fox
Scientific NameVulpes zerda
SizeUp to 16 inches

Native to the Sahara desert in Africa, the fennec fox is a small fox species with large ears and a slender body. It has all the adaptations needed to survive the dryness of the desert, as it can go weeks without drinking water. It feeds mainly on smaller insects and mammals that it can find.

19. Gila Monster

gila Monster
Scientific NameHeloderma suspectum

The name of this animal is slightly scary, and that’s because it has gotten a reputation for being a human killer. Historically, that is. Nowadays, this animal is not much of a danger because it is slow-moving and not fast enough to strike a human. It can still prove to be dangerous if given the chance, though.

20. Golden Eagle

golden eagle
Scientific NameAquila chrysaetos
Size40 in

Known as one of the best apex predators in the world, the golden eagle takes up different habitats. Some of these individuals might have a habitat that is up to 77 square miles long, so many of them also live in the desert areas and other surrounding areas, where it will feed on smaller ground animals.

21. Greater Roadrunner

Scientific NameGeococcyx californianus
Size12 in

The Californian earth-cuckoo, as it is often called, is the largest cuckoo species in North America. The roadrunner is known for its fast running, as it can run with speeds of up to 30 km per hour.

22. Kangaroo Rat

Scientific NameDipodomys
Size3 in

The kangaroo rat is named after the kangaroo because of its leaping behavior. This small creature can leap to up to several feet in the air, which is impressive for such a small animal. This behavior allows it to stay safe from predators.

23. Kit Fox

Kit Fox
Scientific NameVulpes macrotis
Size21 in

The kit fox is one of the smallest fox species in the world. It mainly inhabits the arid southwestern regions of the United States. They will build underground dens that allow them to escape the heat, while conducting most of its activities like hunting at night.

24. Lappet-Faced Vulture

Scientific NameTorgos tracheliotos
Size45 in

The vulture might have some negative connotations, especially among the local people living in the desert. To many, it is a sign of death because of its scavenging nature. They live in various habitats, but usually they prefer a generally open area with some scattered trees and bushes.

25. Meerkat

Scientific NameSuricata suricatta
Size4.9 ft

The meerkat is truly one of the world’s most unique animals. It is a highly social animal that tends to live in groups, and it usually populates arid areas. It will create large systems of burrows to survive. These create a special microclimate that allows the meerkat to survive even the harshest conditions.

26. Nine-banded Armadillo

Scientific NameDasypus novemcinctus
SizeUp to 42 inches

The nine-banded armadillo also lives in the desert, but this animal also survives in different types of habitats, such as the rainforests, or grasslands. In Spanish, the word armadillo translates to “little armored one”, which is a term used to describe its shell and its armored look.

27. Red-Spotted Toad

Scientific NameAnaxyrus punctatus
Size3 in

You may find the red-spotted toad in different habitats, but it’s also sometimes found in the desert. This little amphibian with red spots can survive critically high temperatures without major problems.

28. Sidewinder Snake

Scientific NameCrotalus cerastes
Size30 in

The sidewinder snake is a type of rattlesnake that lives in the desert. Also known as the horned rattlesnake, this animal will use a special type of winding movement to move around in the sand. It also possesses a potent venom, which is not as strong as the venom of other rattlesnake species.

29. Thorny Devil

Thorny Devil
Scientific NameMoloch horridus
SizeUp to 8.3 inches

The appearance of the thorny devil is far scarier than its true nature. It has spikes all over its body, which are necessary for the protection against predators. This mechanism allows the thorny devil to withstand attacks even from many larger and fiercer animals, as they are reluctant to eat this spiky creature.

30. Western Saharan Spiny Mouse

Scientific NameAcomys ariensis
Size5 in

The spiny mouse is one of the smallest inhabitants of the desert. Because it is often targeted by larger predators, this mouse needs to be resourceful. It will hide in rocks and other crevices, allowing it to escape some predators and stay safe along the way, even though that is not always possible.

More Examples of Desert Animals

CamelCentral Netted DragonRattlesnake
ZebraPrairie DogTarantula
Sandy Inland MousePit ViperAddax
Mulga SnakeDesert MouseCrow


Animals that live in the desert need to have several adaptations to survive. Some will use burrowing and other mechanisms to stay safe, while others use their venom or other features of their body. There’s also a surprising deal of variety when it comes to desert animals, which is interesting to observe.

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