Desert animals are now the focus of many researchers looking at how human beings can learn to reduce their impact on the planet. Deserts are harsh, and there are never enough resources for the dwellers, so most animals have adapted to living without some vital resources, and most of them survive perfectly in conditions that would be considered unlivable. From ants that survive 70 degrees Celsius, temperatures high enough to fry them alive, to a lizard that simply dances its way through the valley of death, here is a look at 10 amazing survival skills in the desert.
The Antelope That Changes Skin Colour
Changing skin colour is not the reserve of most mammals since they don’t have the same abilities as the chameleon. Addax antelopes are one of the most endangered animals in the wild, with less than 500 members remaining in the wild. They are also the most well-adapted antelope to survive in the desert. They have flat hooves, so their legs won’t sink in the desert, but most importantly, when the summer comes, their coat changes from brownish-grey to white which reflects away the heat. They can also dig shallow burrows next to boulders for shade from the searing heat.
The Lizard That Drinks Through The Skin
Imagine being able to stand still in the desert for enough dew to accumulate on your skin, then absorbing all of it, move it to your mouth, and drink. The thorny devil lizard, native to Australian deserts, also have these superpower abilities. They can drink water with any part of their body, including from damp sand and puddles in the desert. They are the ultimate survivors with skin that acts as straws to absorb the rare resource wherever they find it with whichever part of the body that comes into contact with it.
The Sidewinding Snakes
Normally, snakes crawl across the surface with their entire bodies. Their whole bodies touching the ground allow them to slither away faster but, in the desert, that could be catastrophic. The more parts of your body in contact with the ground, the higher your chances of being fried alive. The Peringuey’s adder is one of the fastest sidewinders in the snake world and can accumulate speeds of up to 18mph in the desert sand. For these snakes, sidewinding is similar to a horse galloping as the snake moves way faster and keeps most of its body off the ground.
Red Dune Ants Just Keep Walking
The Namib desert, one of the hottest places on earth, is also home to one of the world’s most delicate creatures. The idea of an ant-nest in the sea of hot sand could be unimaginable, but the red ants are one of the best survivors of that hell on earth. They build their nests under the rare thickets of dry grass but have to hunt all day on the surface, which means surviving the heat. To prevent themselves from getting fried, they ensure there is little time spent at every spot as possible. So, unlike other ants, which pick at the best and biggest food they can carry, these ants only pick at the food they can carry, and only one individual carries a load at a time to prevent delays. The ants also stay on the move all the time to stay from getting baked.
Scorpions Hibernate While Still On The Hunt
Hibernation has kept more species alive than any other adaptation, but none of them are as good at it as desert scorpions. While other hibernators go underground and shut down most body functions to preserve resources, desert scorpions do it right there while still hunting. They can lower their heart rates and shut down most body functions while staying awake and alert enough to catch prey.
The Pixie Frog Turns Its Skin Into A Cocoon
The giant African Pixie is one of the largest frogs in the world and is somehow adapted to living in places where the supply of water is not constant. As a result, the frog has adapted to survive super-long dry spells of over two years. When the dry season comes, the frog burrows underground up to 5 meters deep, and it will stay there feeding on its own body reserves until the rains come again. It simply turns part of its skin into a protective bag that covers its entire body then moistens it with mucus creating what looks like an amniotic sac. It imitates a pregnancy as it swims in the bag and feeds on the reserves it builds from its own body.
The Golden Wheel Spider
It is one of the smartest spiders in the world, with the ability to burrow through sand up to half a meter deep in search of insects and shelter from the desert heat. However, the spider is also the prey to the pomfret wasp, which could easily turn them into zombies and lay their eggs on them. The wasp can fly and also dig through the sand faster than the spider, so when cornered, the spider can run at an amazingly high speed to the steepest end of a dune before pulling off its ultimate miracle. The spider rolls itself up into a wheel and simply slides with gravity don the dune at speeds the wasp may find astonishing.
The Dancing Lizard Tricks
The shovel snouted lizard also called the dancing lizard, is a typical desert machine. It can literally run through the desert sand on its two hind legs using its forelegs only for steering. It also has incredible speeds that allow it to catch as many insects as it can in the hot sand within the shortest time possible to prevent overheating and prolonged exposure to predators.
If its hunting trip takes too long, it starts a dance in which it keeps only one hind leg and one foreleg in contact with the ground at each given time. When the legs touching the ground reach the same temperature as the hot sand, the lizard rotates its legs and lifts the heated two to release the heat. The dance continues until it can’t lose all the excess heat it is absorbing anymore when it goes under the sand to cool.
The Turkey Vultures wet Themselves
To prevent losing water, most desert animals just don’t urinate. They have other methods of releasing toxic waste. However, Turkey Vultures are one of the wonders of nature as they are the only known species of birds that are known to pee. Their pee comes in the form of a light mixture of pee and poop, which they use to cover their legs. When the hot air hits them, it causes the pee to evaporate, leaving a white lining covering their legs which also reflects away the heat from the sun. And yes, they can also release a projectile vomit of dead rotten flesh when they are attacked.
The Roadrunner Cries Away Toxic Minerals
The roadrunner can fly alright, but it prefers to run on land and conserves the energy as its long legs allow it to go through the brush with little effort. Most birds release toxic waste in the form of uric acid through their poop. Roadrunners, on the other hand, reabsorb all the water from their poop first before releasing it, which means they cant remove soluble toxins effectively alongside the poop. As a secondary survival mechanism, they have a gland near the eyes that removes salt and excess minerals in which makes them look like they are crying. The gland is common in sea birds that drink salty seawater, but roadrunners are just a special kind of land bird.