Desert Animals – Concept, Characteristics and Examples

We explain everything about the animals that live in the desert, some examples and the main characteristics of these animals.

Desert animal - camel
Desert animals are part of the amazing fauna of our planet.

What are the desert animals?

Deserts are quite common ecoregions on our planet, which can occur in hot climates (hot deserts) and cold (frozen deserts), characterized by their brutal lack of humidity. In them the rains are very occasional or nonexistent, and the soil is therefore arid, dry, hard. This does not, however, prevent the existence of fauna and flora, that is, desert plants and animals. adapted to such harsh conditions of existence.

Contrary to what was once thought, desert animals they are not scarce, although they are not very diverse, especially when compared to the enormous variety of creatures that inhabit other regions such as jungles and forests. This is because desert vegetation has few water resources to abound, so it grows at a slower rate, generally without foliage, thus providing little opportunity for animals to, among other things, protect themselves from sunlight and sunlight. wind, the latter being an important source of erosion.

Desert animals are part of the amazing fauna of our planet and suffer from the effects of climate change and pollution as much as any other living being from any other habitat, since over millions of years they have adapted to current living conditions. This despite the fact that in deserts, luckily for them, human life is truly scarce.

The camels

Camel - desert animals
The camel’s hump has essential fats to maintain body energy.

Camels are iconic animals of the desert habitat. They are very well adapted to the harsh living conditions of these spaces, they can drink about 180 liters of water at once, and then go up to 10 days without tasting a drop.

They have a characteristic hump in the middle of the back, which can be simple (dromedary) or double (Bactrian camel). This hump, contrary to popular belief, is not a reserve of water, but of essential fats to maintain body energy. It is an animal designed to withstand long walks, which is why it was used as a beast of burden by the inhabitants of the Saharan desert and its surroundings.


Scorpion - desert animals
Scorpions surprise their prey by injecting venom from the stinger into their tails.

The food chain in deserts is much more desperate than in other habitats, as species are rare and predators rarely get second chances. Therefore, hunters like scorpions have evolved to surprise their prey and inject them with their venom with the stinger that they have in the tail, or holding them with the robust front pincers that they have. These arachnids abound in the desert biome, among which are some of the most poisonous species known.


Rattlesnake - desert animals
Rattlesnake venom is the most dangerous of all North American snakes.

Frequent in American desert climates, although its preferred habitat is coastal and forest, this snake It is well known for the sound it makes with its tail, at the end of which it has a rattle, from which its name comes.

In a conducive environment, a rattle can grow up to 2.5 meters long and 4 kg in weight. Its potent hemotoxic venom is the most dangerous of all North American snakes.

The Dingo Dog

Dingo dog - desert animals
The Dingo dog is a subspecies of wolf.

This type of northern Australian canid is a real threat to children and domestic species, as despite being a desert inhabitant, tends to approach urban areas in search of food.

It is a subspecies of wolf, yellowish coat and features similar to modern dogs. Most of their lives are lived alone, but from time to time herds are formed whose purpose is to socialize and reproduce.

The ostrich of the Sahara

Ostrich - desert animals
The Sahara ostrich is a critically endangered animal.

Also known as the red-necked ostrich, it is a common inhabitant of the steppes and deserts of North Africa. It is the most robust of all the ostrich subspecies, the one that best supports the absence of water and the one that can run the fastest.

Its name comes from the pinkish coloration of its neck and legs, but the rest of its coat is black with white trim on the tips of the wings. It is, however, an animal critically endangered, of which only a few copies remain.

The coyote

Coyote - Desert Animals
Coyotes live for about 6 years.

Famous for its appearance in cartoons, the coyote is a predatory canid from the deserts of North America, as well as Central America.

Coyotes are particularly solitary animals, they live for about 6 years and have a gray fur that covers a particularly slender body, which at first glance seems malnourished. However, its diet is omnivorous, being able to eat fruits, carrion, small species, garbage and small insects.

Characteristics of desert animals

desert animals - thorny devil
Many animals hide under the sand looking for the freshness of the depths.

Desert animals have developed over millions of years of evolution diverse physical, biochemical or behavioral capacities that allow them to survive and reproduce in a habitat as challenging as the desert. It is, as said, little varied and not very abundant compared to other terrestrial ecosystems, and it consists mainly of insects, arachnids, reptiles, birds and some mammals, generally of small size.

Many of these animals have nocturnal habits, when the sun goes down and the temperatures drop considerably. Thus they hide during the day, within the most abundant vegetation (cacti and bushes) or under the sand itself, looking for the freshness of the depths. It is also usual that they have insulating layers to protect themselves from the sun and desiccation, or water reserves in various body organs to spend long periods without drinking.

Given the low abundance of organic matter, the predominance of carnivorous and scavenger animals is notorious; and in the case of herbivores, nomadic herds, wandering.

Examples of hot desert animals

Below is a list of the animals of the hot desert:

  • Bactrian camelCamelus bactrianus)
  • Dromedary (Camelus dromedarius)
  • Red-necked ostrich (Struthio camelus camelus)
  • Roadrunner birdGeococcyx californianus)
  • African dorcas gazelle (Gazella dorcas)
  • Coyote (Canis latrans)
  • Australian dingo (Canis lupus dingo)
  • American black vulture (Coragyps atratus)
  • Adax (Addax nasomaculatus)
  • Fat-tailed scorpion (Androctonus australis)
  • Yellow Palestinian scorpion (Leiurus quinquestriatus)
  • Emperor scorpion (Pandinus imperator)
  • Armadillo lizardOuroborus cataphractus)
  • Thorny devilMoloch horridus)
  • Mojave desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii)
  • Mojave rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus)
  • Egyptian cobra (Naja haje)
  • Camel spider (Gluvia dorsalis)
  • Common vulture (Aegypius monachus)
  • Desert Woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis)
  • Desert rattleCampylorhynchus brunneicapillus)
  • Sonoran Owl (Tyto alba)
  • Pharaoh Owl (Bubo ascalaphus)
  • Western desert tarantula (Aphonopelma chalcodes)
  • Namibian beetle (Stenocara gracilipes)
  • Tarantula hunting wasp (Pepsis formosa)
  • Northern bat (Eptesicus nilsonii)
  • Red kangaroo (Macropus rufus)
  • Desert iguanaDorsal dipsosaurus)
  • Cougar or American lion (Puma condonor)
  • Desert ratPsammomys obesus)
  • Antelope hareLepus alleni)
  • Long-eared foxOtocyon megalotis)
  • Fennec (Vulpes zerda)
  • Cape fox (Vulpes chama)
  • Laucha salinera (Salinomys delicatus)

In the case of frozen deserts or polar deserts, the fauna is much more scarce, and it tends to live in the regions near the sea.