How do Plants and Animals Live In the Deserts?

To begin with, there are many kinds of deserts. Some are the familiar deserts of bare rock and shifting sand, upon which the hot sun beats down. But some deserts, such as the Gobi, have bitterly cold winters. So a desert is really a region where only special forms of life can exist.

And the form of life is the kind that has managed to adapt itself to the particular desert. For example, cacti are well-known deserts plants. They have thick, fleshy stems without true leaves.

Desert shrubs that have leaves usually have small ones. Little or no leaf surface prevents too much evaporation of water from the plant. Many desert plants have thorns, spines, or a disagreeable taste or smell.

This discourages animals that might eat them and so helps them survive. Desert plants usually lie dormant during the dry or cool season, or drop seeds than can survive such a period.

When the period for growth arrives, the seeds germinate and give rise to plants that rapidly flower and drop more seeds. Within a few weeks or months, the plants are ready again for the long season of dormancy. When it comes to animals, they must be able to do without water for long periods, or be able to to reach water holes at great distances.

The camel for example, is highly adapted to desert life. It has padded feet to walk on sand, a water-strong stomach, humps of fat as a reserve supply of energy, and nostrils that can be closed to keep out sand during windstorms.

Many of the smaller desert creatures need to drink no water at all. They get what liquid they need from the sap of food plants and from night dew on leaves or stones.

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