Desert Facts



  • In the Sahara desert, a large antelope called the addax survives without waterholes because it gets all its water from its food.
  • Many small animals cope with the desert heat by resting in burrows or sheltering under stones during the day. They come out to feed only at night.
  • Desert animals include many insects, spiders, scorpions, lizards and snakes.
  • The dwarf puff adder hides from the sun by burying itself in the sand until only its eyes show.
  • The fennec fox and the antelope jack rabbit both lose heat through their ears. This way they keep cool.
  • The kangaroo rats of California’s Death Valley save water by eating their own droppings.
  • The Mojave squirrel survives through long periods of drought by sleeping for five or six days a week.
  • Swarms of desert locusts can cover an area as big as 5,000 square kilometres.
  • Sand grouse fly hundreds of kilometres every night to reach watering holes.
  • The fennec fox lives in the Sahara Desert region where it feeds mainly on ants, termites and other tiny prey.
  • Deserts like this are among the world’s toughest environments for animals to survive
  • The African fringe-toed lizard dances to keep cool, lifting each foot in turn off the hot sand.
  • Some plants find water in the dry desert with very long roots. The mesquite has roots that can go down as much as 50 m deep.
  • Most desert plants have tough waxy leaves to cut down on water loss. They also have very few leaves; cacti have no leaves at all.
  • Pebble plants avoid the desert heat by growing partly underground.
  • Window plants grow almost entirely underground. A long cigar shape pokes into the ground, with just a small green ‘window’ on the surface to catch sunlight.
  • Some mosses and lichens get water by soaking up dew.
  • Resurrection trees get their name because their leaves look shrivelled, brown and dead most of the time — then suddenly turn green when it rains.
  • The rose of Jericho is a resurrection plant that forms a dry ball that lasts for years and opens only when damp.
  • Daisies are found in most deserts.
  • Cacti and ice plants can store water for many months in special storage organs.
  • Deserts are places where it rarely rains. Many are hot, but one of the biggest deserts is Antarctica. Deserts cover about one-fifth of the Earth’s land.
  • Hamada is desert that is strewn with boulders. Reg is desert that is blanketed with gravel.
  • About one-fifth of all deserts are seas of sand dunes. These are known as ergs in the Sahara.
  • The type of sand dune depends on how much sand there is, and how changeable the wind is.
  • Barchans are moving, crescent-shaped dunes that form in sparse sand where the wind direction is constant.
  • Seifs are long dunes that form where sand is sparse and the wind comes from two or more directions.
  • Most streams in deserts flow only occasionally, leaving dry stream beds called wadis or arroyos. These may suddenly fill with a flash flood after rain.
  • In cool, wet regions, hills are covered in soil and rounded in shape. In deserts, hills are bare rock with cliff faces footed by straight slopes.
  • Mesas and buttes are pillar-like plateaux that have been carved gradually by water in deserts.
  • In the western Sahara, 2 million dry years have created sand ridges over 300 m high.
  • Oases are places in the desert that have water supplies. Plants and animals can thrive in these areas.