Table of Contents
This chapter introduces us to deserts. It also explains how different animals survive in such dry places. It shows that the survival instinct is common to all creatures but the mechanisms they use vary from animal to animal.
Deserts are places which receive very little rainfall. Due to this, they remain dry almost throughout the year. This is why many desert animals find different ways to adapt to such conditions. While Gebrils retreat into underground holes to escape the sun’s heat, Darkling Beetles use their legs to trap drops of moisture which they later drink to quench their thirst.
Deserts are not always made of sand. There can be deserts of rocks and pebbles with little vegetation. Some deserts even have colourful flowers during the spring season. A commonly found creature in the deserts is the Snake.
While there are over 2300 kinds of snakes in the world, the most common kind found in deserts is the Rattlesnake. It is found in the rocky deserts of America and is known for being highly poisonous. Also found in Canada and Argentina, this animal feeds on small creatures like mice, voles, rats, chipmunks. It kills with its venom and swallows its prey whole.
Though a dangerous animal, the Rattlesnake is itself a shy creature. On being disturbed, it makes the rattle sound with its tail held upright. This way it warns any dangers or intrusions that seem to threaten it. It uses its tail to ward off threats and its poison to kill.
Due to the rattle sound that it makes, it can be heard clearly from a distance of thirty metres. An interesting fact about this creature is that though it is known for and even named after the sound it makes, it is not able to hear its own sound. Infact, rattlesnakes can hear no sounds; they only sense vibrations.
Another animal found in deserts is the Mongoose. Found mainly in Africa, this animal travels and hunts in groups of nearly twenty and feeds on creatures as small as beetles and millipedes. All female mongoose give birth at almost the same time and keep their newborns protected in safe den-like termite mounts or hollow logs of wood. These places are guarded by one or two male mongoose.
Mongoose communicate with each other when they sense any signs of danger. They do so through twittering and calling. The Mongoose is a quick and clever creature that is capable of continually dodging the snake until it gets tired and then the Mongoose kills it.
Another animal that lives in the desert is the Camel. Camels also live in groups of about thirty. A camel can drink as much as thirty gallons of water at a time. But in the deserts where water is scarce, this animal derives moisture by feeding on the desert vegetation. This way it can survive without water for up to ten months.
Camels have humps that store fat and help them to survive for months without water. While camels with only one hump are called the Dromedary, some camels have two humps and are called Bactrian camels. While the hairy coat on its skin keeps the animal warm during colder months, this coat is shorter and more tidy during summers to keep the animal cool.
This chapter concludes that every desert animal has developed certain mechanisms to deal with extreme weather conditions. Their survival mechanisms also help them to stay protected from other animals.