Desert Animals

Despite being some of the most inhospitable habitats in the world, deserts actually house hundreds of animals and birds. Collectively referred to as xerocoles, all these species have special adaptive features to survive in the desert ecosystem.

Desert Animals

List of animals that live in the desert biome

What animals live in the Sahara Desert, Africa

Sand Cat Mediterranean Monk Seal Fennec Fox
Monitor Lizard Saharan Silver Ant White Antelope
Deathstalker Scorpion African Silverbill Saharan Cheetah

What animals live in the Sonoran Desert, North America

Desert Tortoise Pronghorn Gila Woodpecker
Sonora Sucker Curve-billed Thrasher Sonoran Desert Toad
Kit Fox Black-tailed Jackrabbit Mearns Coyote

What animals live in the Mojave Desert, North America

Glossy Snake Mojave Ground Squirrel Elf Owl
Rosy Boa Western Screech Owl Common Raven
Chuckwalla Gopher Snake Cottontail Rabbit

What animals live in the Gobi Desert, Asia

Bactrian Camel Central Asian Viper Jerboa
Golden Eagle Gobi Ibex Marbled Polecat
Gobi Bear Snow Leopard Mongolian Wild Ass

What animals live in the Chihuahuan Desert, North America

Red-tailed Hawk Roadrunner Collared Lizard
Collared Peccary Jaguar Bighorn Sheep

What animals live in the Arctic and Antarctic Deserts

Rock Ptarmigan Arctic Fox Leopard Seals
Chinstrap Penguins Gentoo Penguins Polar Bears
Wandering Albatross Saiga Antelope Walrus

What animals live in the Great Victoria Desert, Australia

Chestnut-breasted Whiteface Dingo Sand Goanna
Thorny Devil Bearded Dragon Red Kangaroo

What animals live in the Thar Desert, Asia

Indian Spiny-Tailed Lizard Saw-scaled Viper Indian spotted eagle
Great Indian Bustard Blackbuck Indian Wild Ass

What animals live in the Atacama Desert, South America

Humboldt Penguins Lava Lizard South American Grey Fox
Darwin’s Leaf-eared Mouse Andean Flamingo Guanaco

What animals live in the Arabian Desert, Asia

Caracal Arabian Wolves Striped Hyena
Egyptian uromastyx Lanner falcon Namaqua dove

What animals live in the Namib Desert, Africa

Meerkat Desert Elephants Ostrich

What animals live in the Negev Desert, Asia

Negev Tortoise Negev Shrew

What animals live in the Kalahari Desert, Africa

Brown hyena Chacma Baboons African Leopard
Secretary Bird Kalahari Lion Common Warthogs

Adaptations: How do animals survive in the desert

Behavioral adaptations

  • Since the temperatures below the surface are much cooler than above it, many of the small to medium-sized animals living in the desert dig burrows to spend the hot daytime hours, only coming out during the night. Due to this, most desert inhabitants are nocturnal or crepuscular, where they’re only active at night or during dawn and dusk.
  • Animals and birds that do not exhibit burrowing characteristics choose distinct microclimates where the temperatures are lower than other places. A falcon may opt to spend most of its day nesting on a cliff facing north, where it cooler than on the southern face.
  • Many animals adapt to their environment by going into hibernation to survive through the hottest months.
  • Some animals and birds may migrate to higher altitudes during summer seasons to escape the brutal weather conditions.

Physical adaptations

  • The bodies of the burrowing animals are capable of absorbing moisture from the ground, which is why they prefer to dig into relatively moist areas.
  • The inhabitants of the desert have light body colors, helping them to use camouflage for avoiding dangers. Some examples of sandy colored animals include camels, wild asses, etc.
  • Most of these animals have long limbs and ears, which act like car radiators, helping their bodies to stay cool.
  • They have specialized kidneys which retain water from urine, so excretion occurs in uric acid form.
  • Some animals and birds can also make water within their body by special metabolism of food items.

Diet: What do desert animals eat

Some animals, like camels, and kangaroo rats derive a lot of moisture from succulent plants like cactuses. While some species may extract nectar or sap from different plants, others may get their water from the plant parts they eat. Since insects are also aplenty in the desert, they become a regular source of food for many birds, reptiles, and bats.

Carnivores like hyenas, leopards, and lions that are at the top of the food chain, get their share of water from the bodies of their prey. Some examples of omnivores include coyotes and ravens.

Conservation Status

The population of many animals and birds of the desert have been reduced to mere hundreds because of overhunting by mankind. The IUCN considers many species as endangered, including the Egyptian tortoise, gazelles, antelopes, Saharan cheetah, fennec foxes, caracals, and pronghorns. Conservation efforts are, however, underway to save them from going extinct.

Extinct desert animals: The bubal hartebeest and desert rat-kangaroo.

Interesting facts about desert animals

  • The sandgrouse from North Africa and Asia are able to carry small quantities of water in the feathers on their belly to bring it back to the nest for their family.
  • The African spiny mouse has the ability to regenerate its damaged or wounded skin entirely, along with regrowing the hair follicles, sweat glands, cartilage, and fur.
  • Kangaroos often lick their forelegs to cool themselves, as the saliva evaporates and reduces their body temperature.
  • The addax, an inhabitant of the tropical desert of Sahara, can change the color of its pelage, which becomes white in summer to reflect sunlight while changing to a brown-grey that can absorb heat during winter.