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
|Scientific Name||Addax nasomaculatus|
|Size||Up 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 Name||Loxodonta africana|
|Size||Up 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
|Scientific Name||Giraffa camelopardalis angolensis|
|Size||Up 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
|Scientific Name||Lepus alleni|
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
|Scientific Name||Ouroborus cataphractus|
|Size||Up 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
|Scientific Name||Camelus bactrianus|
|Size||Up 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
|Size||Up 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.
|Scientific Name||Lynx rufus|
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
|Scientific Name||Loxosceles reclusa|
|Size||Up 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
|Scientific Name||Galeodes arabs|
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.
|Scientific Name||Puma concolor|
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.
|Scientific Name||Canis latrans|
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
|Scientific Name||Leiurus quinquestriatus|
|Size||Up 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
|Scientific Name||Dipsosaurus 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 Name||Cyprinodon macularius|
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
|Scientific Name||Gopherus agassizii|
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
|Scientific Name||Camelus dromedarius|
|Size||Up 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
|Scientific Name||Vulpes zerda|
|Size||Up 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
|Scientific Name||Heloderma 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
|Scientific Name||Aquila chrysaetos|
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 Name||Geococcyx californianus|
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
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
|Scientific Name||Vulpes macrotis|
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 Name||Torgos tracheliotos|
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.
|Scientific Name||Suricata suricatta|
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 Name||Dasypus novemcinctus|
|Size||Up 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 Name||Anaxyrus punctatus|
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 Name||Crotalus cerastes|
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
|Scientific Name||Moloch horridus|
|Size||Up 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 Name||Acomys ariensis|
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
|Camel||Central Netted Dragon||Rattlesnake|
|Sandy Inland Mouse||Pit Viper||Addax|
|Mulga Snake||Desert Mouse||Crow|
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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