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Today’s Hours: 7:00am – 1:30pm

Addax

Deserts Rule Because of Desert Rules

By: Jared Moeller, Animal Care Curator 

Deserts are some of earth’s most extreme ecosystems. Therefore, wildlife requires equally extreme adaptations. Many of our resident animals at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens demonstrate the most amazing of these adaptations. But there are certain rules wildlife must follow to not only survive but thrive in deserts. Today let’s examine some of these fascinating ways desert animals follow the rules of the desert.

Rule number one, it’s all about conserving water. Many desert herbivores like addax and pronghorn get all the water they need from moisture in the plants they eat and the morning dew. The slender horn gazelle takes this even further, these gazelles maintain their body temperature about 10 degrees warmer than normal during the heat of the day to reduce the need to cool themselves, saving water.

Rule number two, food in the desert can be sparse, so you better stock up. Contrary to popular belief camel humps do not store water. In fact, their humps are a large fat reserve they can draw on to fuel their bodies when food is in short supply. But camels are not the only animal to have this adaptation. Have you ever noticed gila monsters have an unusually thick tail? Well believe it or not this thick tail is a fat reserve for gila monsters just like a camel’s hump.

Rule number three, you must stay cool. The most common way that wildlife keep cool in desert ecosystems is to avoid the heat all together. Most desert animals from bobcats, to Bennett’s wallabies, and black rhinoceros are predominantly nocturnal. This means they are most active at night, which also makes nighttime, party time in desert ecosystems.

Bonus rule, you also must keep warm. That’s right not all deserts are hot and even hot deserts can get cold at night or in the winter. So, some desert animals like camels and addax actually grow winter coats too. As the days get shorter addax coats get shaggy turn from snow white to brown and white.

Come out to The Living Desert to learn more about the rules of the desert and what adaptations help our animals meet the challenges deserts present.

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