1. How Do Desert Animals Keep Cool?

Deserts are hot, dry places where almost no rain falls. Each day, the sun beats down fiercely from cloudless skies. At first glance, deserts seem lifeless places, but in fact all kinds of creatures live there. Many desert animals spend the scorching midday hours in underground burrows. Burrow-dwellers include snakes, lizards, and tortoises, rodents and other mammals, and even some kinds of birds.

2. Do Many Desert Animals Have Large Ears?

Fennec foxes of the Sahara Desert have large pointed ears. So do kit foxes of American deserts, and also desert hedgehogs. All these creatures’ ears work in the same way as the jack rabbits do. They radiate heat to keep the animal cool.


3. Why Is Dew The Devil’s Favorite Drink?

The thorny devil is a lizard of American deserts. Its body is covered with sharp spines that protect it from enemies. The spines also act as a water- catchment system. On cold nights dew condenses on the animal’s body. Moisture runs down grooves in the spines straight into the lizard’s mouth.

4. How Do Cold-Blooded Creatures Cope With The Heat?

Snakes, lizards, and many other reptiles live in deserts. Reptiles are cold-blooded creatures-their body temperature is not controlled by a thermostat in their body like ours is. but by their surroundings. Throughout the day, they change their position to regulate their temperature so they can stay active. A desert lizard basks in the sun in the early morning to warm up. When the sun blazes down at midday, it moves into the shade to cool off. It sunbathes again in the evening so its body stays warm at night.


5. Which Desert Creature Has A Built-In Sunshade?

Ground squirrels of American and South African deserts have long, bushy tails. When searching for food in the hot sun, the squirrel fluffs out its tail and holds it over its head to act as a shady parasol.

6. Do Desert Creatures Ever Sleep For Long Periods?

Some desert creatures, such as tortoises, enter a deep sleep called aestivation to avoid the hottest summer weather. In harsh Mongolian deserts, furry mammals called susliks sleep out the scorching summer and hibernate in winter too. Aestivation comes from the Latin word for summer, and hibernation from the Latin word for winter.


7. Which Snake Moves Sideways?

Sidewinder snakes of North America are so-called because they move by looping their body and slithering sideways. Scales on the underside of the snake’s body grip the sand. As it passes the sidewinder leaves a line of parallel tracks across the desert.

8. Which Huge Desert Birds Are Champion Runners?

Ostriches live in deserts and dry grasslands in Africa. These large, heavy birds can’t fly, but they have very powerful legs and can race along at speeds of up to 45 mph. They are the fastest creatures on two legs!


9. Which Desert Animal Has Webbed Feet?

Most animals with webbed feet live near water. The web-footed gecko lives in the Namib Desert in southern Africa. Its webbed feet help it to run on fine sand without sinking in.

10. Which Lizard Moves Like A Fish?

Sandfish are African lizards with long, slender bodies like eels. They move through the sand by thrashing their body from side to side like a fish swimming in water. The sandfish’s feet have scaly fringes that can help it run along the sand.


11. Which Lizard Dances To Cool Off?

Most lizards use all four legs for running. The bearded lizard of Australian deserts is different-it runs on its hind legs to keep its body off the sand. When standing still, it cools its feet by “dancing” – lifting each of its legs in turn.

12. Kangaroo Really A Rat?

Kangaroo rats have strong, springy hind legs shaped like a kangaroo’s legs. As they hound along at high speed, their paws make little contact with the burning ground. These rodents also leap high in the air to reach the young, tasty shoots of desert shrubs. Jerboas of African and Asian deserts are rodents with very similar hind legs that live in the same way.


13. Which Golden Mammal “Swims” Through Sand?

The golden mole lives in South Africa. Its forelegs have large, flat claws that help it to shovel sand aside as it burrows under the surface. Its digging action is like a swimmer’s breaststroke. This little beast can dig a tunnel 21/2 miles long in a single night.

14. What Wears Snow-Shoes With Hairy Soles?

Desert animals such as camels and addax antelopes have very broad feet. Their feet act like snowshoes, spreading the animal’s weight over a wide area to stop it sinking into soft sand. Hot sand can scorch tender animal feet, so the camel’s feet have tough soles to protect them. Some other desert beasts such as sand cats and gerbils have feet with hairy soles for the same reason.

15. What Large Birds Make Caring Fathers?

Female emus lay their eggs in the male birds’ nests, and the father sits on the eggs to incubate them. When the chicks hatch out they follow their father for I 8 months.

16. Which Animals Employ A Nanny?

Young meerkats are born in the safety of the underground colony. Like all mammals, they feed on their mother’s milk. Female meerkats known as “nannies” look after the babies when their mothers go off to feed.

17. What Happens To Ant Lions When They Grow Up?

Ant lions are young, wingless insects with fat bodies. The adult insects are long, delicate winged creatures like dragonflies. When the ant lion is fully grown it changes into a pupa (chrysalis). As it rests inside the hard pupa case, its body is transformed. Eventually the case splits open and a beautiful winged insect climbs out.

18. Which Creature Hatches In Two Days And Grows Up In Two Weeks?

Spade foot toads spend most of the year buried in the mud. When rain falls, they emerge and breed quickly before the pool dries up again. The females lay their eggs in the water, and the tadpoles hatch after only two days. Most tadpoles take months to grow up, but spade foot tadpoles become adults in just two weeks. As the pool dries out and turns to mud, the young toads bury themselves to wait for the next shower of rain.

19. How Do Scorpions Look After Their Young?

Most minibeasts take little care of their young, but female scorpions are protective mothers. The young ride round on their mother’s back, safe beneath her sting. After three weeks they are strong enough to drop off and fend for themselves.

20. Which Chick Drinks From Its Father’s Feathers?

Sandgrouse are birds of South African deserts. They fly a long way to drink water daily. The male bird also visits the waterhole to bring water to his thirsty chicks. He wades in and soaks up water with his fluffy breast feathers. When he flies back to the nest, the chicks drink from his soggy feathers.

21. Which Desert Beast Rears Its Young In A Pouch?

Marsupials are a group of mammals that rear their young in a pouch. Marsupial moles live underground in Australian deserts. The mother’s pouch opens backward, toward the tail, so sand does not smother the baby as she burrows along.

22. Why Is There Safety In Numbers?

Oryx are large antelope that live in herds in African and Arabian deserts. The herd provides safety in numbers because a hunter, such as a big cat, will find it difficult to target a single victim in a great herd. The oryx usually canter off to escape from danger, but if these beasts are cornered, they defend themselves with their horns.

23. Which Creature Gives Instructions In Scent?

Naked mole rats are strange, blind mammals that live in underground burrows in Africa. The colony is ruled by a female, called the queen, who alone gives birth to young. She communicates with the other mole rats by giving off special scent signals, known as pheromones. Which tell the group what to do.

24. What Birds Run After Clouds?

Emus live in flocks in dry parts of Australia. These giant birds feed on plants, fruit, insects, and lizards. They cannot fly, but roam the land on foot looking for food. Farmers build long stretches of tall fences to prevent emus from destroying their crops. In times of drought, emus watch for rain clouds and run after them in search of places where rain has fallen.

25. Which Insects Do Desert People Fear The Most?

Locusts are large grasshoppers found in African and Asian deserts. When their plant food is plentiful, they breed quickly and gather in huge groups called swarms. A locust swarm may contain many millions of insects; as it flies off in search of food, it turns the sky black. Farmers fear these insects because a giant swarm can destroy many acres of carefully tended crops in minutes, causing whole villages to go hungry.

26. Which Desert Birds Are Nomads?

Budgerigars live in flocks in the Australian outback. They have no fixed home, but fly on continually in search of areas where rain has fallen and plants are producing seeds, their favorite food. When seeds are plentiful, the budgies take their chance to settle temporarily, make nests, and rear their young.

27. Why Does A Meerkat Stand On Its Hind Legs?

Many different desert animals live in groups. Meerkats are furry mammals that live in a network of underground tunnels called a colony. These animals cooperate so they can feed safely above ground. One meerkat stands up on its hind legs and keeps a sharp eye out for enemies, such as snakes and hawks, while the rest feed. If the sentry spots a predator, it gives a warning bark and the group quickly disappears.

28. What Desert Birds Are Armed And Dangerous?

Lanner falcons of the Sahara Desert are fierce birds of prey. They have strong feet with razor-sharp claws called talons, and a deadly hooked beak to tear prey animals apart.

29. What Squeezes Its Prey To Death?

King snakes of the American deserts do not have a poisonous bite. Instead, they kill their prey by constriction. The snake wraps its body around a victim such as a rat, and squeezes tighter and tighter. The victim cannot breathe and soon dies of suffocation.

30. Which Cat Can Snatch An Eagle From The Air?

The caracal hunts birds, antelope, mice, and lizards. It can put on a burst of speed to overtake a racing antelope, and can also leap high in the air to catch desert birds. This fierce cat can kill even a large bird like an eagle with one swipe of its powerful paw.

32. Why Are Waterholes Dangerous?

Hungry lanner falcons hunt by lurking at waterholes. When birds, such as sandgrouse, fly in to drink at the pool, the falcon pounces and seizes a victim in its talons.

32. Which Dog Steals A Big Cat’s Dinner?

Jackals live in the deserts and grasslands of Africa. They hunt in packs and scavenge whatever food they can find. Small mammals, reptiles, birds, and fruit are all on the jackal’s menu. They also steal meat from kills made by other hunters, such as lions, using clever teamwork to fool the lion. One jackal distracts the hunter while another sneaks up and pulls the meat away.

33. Why Does The Ant Lion Bury Itself In A Pit?

Strange creatures called ant lions are the young of desert insects that look like dragonflies. The ant lion is a cunning hunter. It digs a small funnel-shaped pit in the sand, then buries itself in the bottom and lies in wait. When a victim, such as an ant, falls into the pit, the ant lion pounces, and grabs its prey in its powerful jaws.

34. What Is The Fastest Animal In The World?

Cheetahs live in dry grasslands in Africa. These sleek, lithe cats can race along at speeds of up to 62 mph to outrun fast prey such as gazelles.

35. How Does The Rattlesnake Kill Its Prey?

A striking rattlesnake sinks its poison fangs into its victim. Then it lets the animal go. The rat runs off, but is soon overcome by the snake’s venom and drops to the ground. The rattlesnake catches up and swallows its victim whole.

36. What Wears Armor In The Desert?

The desert tortoise moves far too slowly to outrun its enemies. Instead, it has an armor-plated shell made up of many bony plates fused together. When it is threatened, the reptile pulls its head and limbs inside the shell so a hunter cannot reach the soft parts of its body.

37. What Loses Its Tail To Save Its Life?

A web-footed gecko’s tail helps it to balance when running, but it is not vital to the creature’s survival. If a hunting bird seizes the tail, it breaks off at a special point and the gecko escapes. Its muscles contract to stop the bleeding. In time, a new tail grows on the stump.

38. When Does An Owl Sound Like A Snake?

Burrowing owls of American deserts are talented mimics. They can make a hissing, rattling noise that sounds like an angry rattlesnake. The noise frightens away most predators trying to enter the owl’s burrow.

39. What Puts Up Its Hood And Spits Poison?

The red cobra is a poisonous snake that lurks by waterholes in East Africa. When danger threatens, the cobra raises the skin round its neck to make a threatening hood. If an intruder, such as a person, does not back away, the snake spits poison into its victim’s eyes. Humans who’ve been attacked can go blind if their eyes are not treated quickly.

40. What Is The Domino Beetle’s Secret Weapon?

The domino ground beetle has a secret weapon. It can produce a jet of burning chemicals from its abdomen (rear end), which it squirts in the face of enemies to ward off attack.

41. Why Might A Fox Get A Mouthful Of Prickles?

Desert hedgehogs live in North Africa and Arabia. If a predator, such as a fennec fox, attacks, the hedgehog curls up into a ball. Tough spines protect its back, and the fox cannot reach its head and soft belly.

42. What Jams Itself In A Crack?

Chuckwalla lizards live in deserts in the western United States. If danger threatens, the lizard speeds into a crack in the rock, then fills its body with air so it swells up. It jams itself into the crevice so a predator, such as a kit fox, cannot pull it out.

43. What Makes The Kangaroo Rat) Ump?

Kangaroo rats leap high in the air to avoid enemies such as snakes and foxes. Their darting leaps confuse the predator, and they may also kick sand in its face before racing away.

44. What Colors Warn That The Gila Monster Is Poisonous?

The poisonous gila monster lizard has orange and black stripes on its scaly skin. These colors are common to poisonous creatures all over the world, so they act as a warning sign that the creature is dangerous. Other animals recognize the colors and know to avoid the lizard.

45. Why Does The Sand Cat Seem Invisible?

The sand cat’s fur is browny-yellow in color, with dark markings on its head, legs, and tail. These subtle colors and patterns, known as camouflage, blend in with its surroundings so the cat can hunt without being seen. It stalks prey, such as jerboas, by approaching stealthily with its body flattened against the rocks, until it is close enough to pounce. The sand cat lives in African and Asian deserts.

46. Which Creature Seems To Have Two Heads?

The Australian shingle back lizard has a short, plump tail that acts as a fat store. The tail also provides good camouflage to confuse predators. It looks very like the lizard’s stumpy head, so enemies don’t know which end to attack.

47. Why Is The King Snake Orange And Black?

The king snake of American deserts is not poisonous. But its orange and black stripes mimic the colors of the deadly coral snake of the same region. Enemies are fooled by its disguise and will not go near it, thinking it is a coral snake.

48. When Does A Squirrel Look Like An Antelope?

Antelope squirrels of American deserts use camouflage to hide from their enemies. The squirrel has mainly brown fur, with a white stripe like an antelope’s running down its body. The stripe helps to break up its outline, making it hard for enemies to spot. If danger threatens, the squirrel freezes and becomes almost invisible against the rocks and sand.

49. How Did The Domino Beetle Get Its Name?

The domino beetle is so-called because the white spots on its black body make it look like a domino. This coloration also acts as a warning signal, showing that the beetle is armed with poisonous chemicals. Predators that have been sprayed with poison once will avoid these beetles in future.

50. Which Snake Waits In The Sand For Its Dinner?

The sand viper of North African and Arabian deserts is light brown in color. The snake hunts by lying in wait for passing lizards and other small creatures. It chooses a spot where it can wriggle down into the loose sand. More sand blows over its body and soon only the head and watchful eyes can be seen. The viper’s perfect disguise has an added advantage: it is also cooler under the desert sand.

51. When Is A Gerbil Relieved To Lose Its Tail?

Gerbils are mainly sandy-colored, so they blend in well with the Mongolian desert. But the rodent has a tuft of dark hair on its tail. If a predator, such as a fox, spots the creature moving, it will attack the dark tail end, which is easier to see than the head. If the fox manages to grab the gerbil’s tail it can break off, giving the animal a chance to escape, though its tail will not grow again.

52. Which Spider Eats Until It Drops?

Camel spiders of African deserts are greedy hunters. They can eat as many as 100 insects in a day, and sometimes get so full they can hardly walk. The camel spider hunts at night, and before it has eaten it can move very quickly. Its front legs have special suckers so it can run straight up smooth walls, to grab lizards and even small birds in its powerful jaws.

53. What Insects Do People Like To Eat?

Young insects called wichetty grubs are a favorite food of Australian Aborigines. These grubs live underground on tree roots. Aborigines dig them up and eat them raw or cooked. In African deserts, people also eat grasshoppers and other insects.

54. How Does The Jewel Wasp Get Its Name?

The jewel wasp of western America is named for the bright metallic colors on its body case, which make it look like a gleaming jewel.

55. Why Does A Scorpion Have Hairy Legs?

Scorpions have poor eyesight, but a keen sense of touch and smell. Their legs are covered with tiny sensitive bristles. The little hairs can detect vibrations caused by other creatures’ movements. The scorpion can tell the size of its prey from the signals it receives.

56. How Do Scorpions Eat Mice And Lizards?

Scorpions catch quite large prey, such as mice and lizards, but they only have tiny mouths. They smother their prey in digestive juices. Their powerful pincers help pull the animal apart and crush it to a crunchy mush, which the scorpion sucks into its mouth.

57. How Does The Jewel Wasp Feed Its Young?

When the jewel wasp is ready to lay its eggs, it jigs a burrow and then goes hunting. It catches a cockroach and paralyzes it with its sting. Then it drags its victim back to the burrow and lays an egg on it. When the wasp larva hatches out, it enjoys live cockroach meat.

58. Why Do Honeypot Ants Take Insects Prisoner?

Honey pots ants live in a colony. Most kinds feed on nectar from flowers, but some get their food in an amazing way. They capture aphids or cochineal insects and keep them captive in their nest. The ants stroke their prisoners with their antennae (feelers), to make the insects produce honeydew, a sweet liquid, for the colony to drink.

59. How Do Honeypot Ants Get Their Name?

Honey pot ants that feed on flower nectar run low in food in the long dry season. But they have a clever way of storing food. When flowers are plentiful, they feed the nectar to special ants called repletes. The bodies of these ants swell up so they become living honey stores (or honey pots). The repletes feed the other ants when food is scarce.

60. How Many Humps Do Camels Have?

There are two different types of camel. Arabian camels (dromedaries) have a single hump. They are found in North Africa as well as Arabia. Bactrian camels come from the Gobi Desert and other dry parts of Asia. These hairy beasts have not one hump, but two.

61. What Is A Camel’s Hump Made Of?

A camel’s hump does not contain water, as some people think. In fact, it is a store of fat which the animal can live off when food is scarce. An Arabian camel’s hump shrinks as the fat inside is used up in hard times. A bactrian camel’s hump flops over.

62. How Do Echidnas Eat Their Meals?

The echidna or spiny anteater is an unusual mammal Found in the Australian outback. It feeds on insects and termites, which it slurps up with its long, sticky tongue.

63. Which Desert Mammal Is A Speedy Mover?

Jack rabbits of North American deserts are champion racers. They can speed along at up to 35 mph, to outdistance predators such as foxes.

64. Where Do Gerbils Store Their Food?

When the gerbil finds a good food source, its stuffs the pouches in its cheeks with seeds. Then it returns to the safety of its burrow to feast in peace.

65. Why The Camel Is Called The Ship Of The Desert?

Camels are strong, hardy beasts that have been domesticated (tamed) for thousands of years. Before the days of trucks and planes, they were used to ferry heavy loads across the desert, where the huge sand dunes often look like waves. Camels are also used as riding animals, but their rolling walk gives a bumpy ride, rather like a boat in a choppy sea. It makes some riders “seasick!”

66. Why Don’t Camels Get Sand Up Their Noses And In Their Eyes?

Windy deserts are no problem for camels. Their nostrils close between breaths to keep the sand out, and long eyelashes protect their eyes from blowing sand. In sandstorms they shut their eyes, but can see well enough through their thin eyelids to keep moving if necessary.

67. What Makes Its Nest In A Cactus Bush?

Pack rats build their nests in cactus bushes in North American deserts. They pile more cacti up around the nest to deter predators, such as foxes, and leave only a tiny entrance hole so the fox cannot get in. The nest contains several cool, comfy chambers where the pack rats sleep by day.