The Sahara is the world’s largest hot desert and one of the harshest environments on the planet. It is third largest desert overall after Antarctica and the Arctic, which are cold deserts.
At 3.6 million square miles (9.4 million square kilometers), the Sahara, which is Arabic for “The Great Desert.” engulfs most of North Africa. The desert covers large sections of Algeria. Chad. Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco. Niger. Western Sahara. Sudan and Tunisia.
Thousands of years ago. the Sahara had enough water so that people and animals were able to survive on the edge of the desert.
Today, there is little water or vegetation to sustain life in most part of the Sahara. However, about 70 different species of animals live despite desert’s harsh climatic conditions. Here some of them.
01. The Fennec fox
The fennec fox is the smallest of all the world’s foxes, hut its large ears, measuring 6 inches (15 centimeters), appear to be on loan from a bigger relative.
Their nocturnal habits help them deal with the searing heat of the desert environment.
Their distinctive, bat-like ears radiate body heat and help keep the foxes cool. They also have long, thick hair that insulates them during cold nights and protects them from hot sun during the day.
These foxes dwell in small communities, each inhabited by perhaps ten individuals.
Male fennecs mark their territory with urine and become aggressive competitors when mating season arrives each year.
Fennec foxes are opportunistic eaters. They forage for plants but also eat rodents, eggs, reptiles, and insects. Like most desert dwellers, the fennec fox has developed the ability to go for long periods without water.
These foxes are cream-colored with black-tipped tails. Their adorable appearance makes them favorites of the captive pet trade, and local peoples also hunt the fennec fox for its fur. Little is known about the status of wild fennec fox populations.
These cute little rodents have very long legs. When alarmed or traveling swiftly, they can leap up to 10 feet (3 meters) at a bound, and run up to 16 miles per hour, making them quite challenging to catch.
They are 2 to 2,7 tall (7 to 15 cm). Tail length up to 7.80 inches (20 cm) and with average weight 140 g.
Since they live in the desert where water is scarce, they are able to extract enough from their foods (Insects, seeds and plants), to sufficed for their needs.
Jerboas are nocturnal. During the heat of the day, they shelter in burrows. At night these weird desert animals leave the burrows due to the cooler temperature of their environment.
They often create four types of burrows. Two temporary are used for hunting during the daylight and at night. Two permanent burrows: one for summer where the young are raised, and one for winter for hibernation.
03. The monitor lizard
The monitor lizard is an extremely venomous reptile in the Sahara Desert. This cold blooded animal is commonly found in Africa and all over Asia.
Its lifespan ranges from 8 to 30 years of age and that time is spent solitary. It can weigh up to 365 lbs and reach a top speed of about 27 miles an hour which is reasonably fast for an animal.
The monitor lizard is an omnivore that cats both vegetables and meat. It usually will eat meat such as small reptiles, small mammals, eggs and birds. Active during the day, it emerges from its burrow in the early- morning, and basks in the sun at the entrance in order to raise its body temperature.
When sufficiently warmed, it begins to forage, using its long forked tongue to detect chemical cues in the air that help it to track down prey.
During the 1970s large numbers of desert monitors were hunted for sale within the international skin trade. This is believed to have caused significant declines in the population, leading to the listing of this species as Vulnerable.
Not a lot of people think of ostriches when asked to name a desert animal, but ostriches are some of the fastest animals in the Sahara. They can sprint up to 43 miles (70 kilometers) an hour, almost as fast as the gazelles, and run over distance at 31 miles (50 kilometers) an hour.
Their long legs can cover 10 to 16 feet (3 to 5 meters) in a single stride, and also he formidable weapons, which can kill a human or a potential predator like a lion. Each two-toed foot has a long, sharp claw.
Contrary to popular belief, ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand.
The old saw probably originates with one of the bird’s defensive behaviors.
At the approach of trouble, ostriches will lie low and press their long necks to the ground in an attempt to become less visible. Their plumage blends well with sandy soil and. from a distance, gives the appearance that they have buried their heads in the sand.
They get most of their water from the plants they eat. they also eat insects, lizards, or other creatures available in their sometimes harsh habitat.
There are a number of species of sidewinder in various deserts around the world. The horned viper is particularly well known in the Sahara.
On average, adult specimens measures between 17 and 30 inches (43 to 76 cm) in length, males are smaller than the females, which is unusual for this type of snakes. The sidewinder pattern consists of a ground color that may be yellowish- brown. cream, buff, pink or grayish.
The sidewinder is a venomous snake, but the species possess a much weaker venom when compared to other rattlesnake species.
It uses its hollow retractable fangs to inject the venom and kill the prey and also to begin digesting it. The snake follows the trail of the envenomated animal and swallows it whole. They feed on lizards, mice, birds and even other snakes.
Sadly, changes in the environment have caused the horned viper to enter the endangered species list.
06. Death Stalker Scorpion
This type of scorpion is translucent and yellow in appearance, and is among the most venomous animals of the Sahara Desert, and the entire world. They look fragile, but they are incredibly dangerous, capable of causing respiratory failure and death.
The Death Stalker Scorpion is about 4 inches in size for the females and the males are about 3 inches. They may both be slightly smaller though depending on the location where they are found.
The main source of the diet is from crickets. When they are in captivity they may be fed that, grasshoppers, or meal worms.
Due to the extremely powerful venom of the Deathstalker Scorpion you should seek immediate medical attention. There is an anti-venom that can be administered and the sooner it is offered the better. In fact, many medical facilities out there will have it on hand if this type of Scorpion is known to reside locally.
07. Addax Antelope
Their body length is between 5 and 5.5 ft (1.5 and 1.7 m), a tail length between 10 and 14 inches (25 and 35 cm) and they weigh between 130 – 280 lbs (60 and 125 Kgs).
Their coat is a grey/brown color in winter and sandy/white in summer.
Both males and females have horns, each having two twists and they measure between 31.5 – 47.2 inches (80 and 120 cm).
Addax have broad hooves with Hal soles and strong dew claws to help them walk on areas of soft sand.
Mainly active during the night, particularly in the hot season; in the day, they dig ‘beds’ into the sand under shade to avoid the heat of the desert sun. and also to shelter from sandstorms.
Small nomadic herds spend most of their time wandering in search of food.
Sadly they have been hunted to the point where there are only around 500 left, and will probably not be able to adapt to human threats and global warming fast enough to survive however, and need our help.
08. The Scarab Beetle
Also known as “dung beetle.” the scarab beetle was a holy symbol to the ancient Egyptians and has some impressive adaptability. Dung beetles are found worldwide, on every continent except Antarctica. They live in habitats that range from desert to forest, are able to subsist almost entirely on animal waste.
There are several ways that scarabs can make use of the dung they find, depending on how flexible they feel about their living situations. Dung beetles can roll dung until it makes a ball shape and then push it home, or simply dig a new burrow next to a heap of dung to live in.
Some dung beetles just burrow into the dung they find and make it into a home, chewing their way out when they get hungry.
Most prefer dung from herbivores, or animals that eat only plants, but some will seek dung from omnivores, or animals that eat plants as well as meat.
When an animal chews, swallows, and digests, there are always parts of its meal that pass through undigested. Those undigested bits pass out of the animal in its dung, and that is what provides food for dung beetles.
09. Dorcas Gazelle
Also known as the Ariel Gazelle, this animal is sleek and graceful that live in Africa and Asia, usually weighing around 36 lbs.
Easily identified by its curved, ringed horns, tan or reddish-brown coats and white rumps. Often, there are spots or stripes on its coat. In captivity Gazella dorcas can live up to 15 years. Average lifespan in the wild is unknown and may vary by population.
Many animals in the Sahara Desert prey on gazelles, so the Dorcas gazelles have evolved to avoid them on impulse. When a predator approaches, the gazelle’s highly attuned body will automatically jump. This is known as “stotting”. It serves several purposes. Firstly, it gets the gazelle out of immediate danger. Secondly, it demonstrates the gazelle’s speed and reflexes to the predator, discouraging it. Thirdly, it alerts other gazelles that a predator is approaching. If the gazelle is forced to run. it can achieve an astounding 49 miles per hour.
Threats facing this species include habitat loss due to the expansion of permanent agriculture and grazing pressures caused by domestic sheep and goats. But the most serious threat throughout this gazelle’s range is uncontrolled illegal hunting.
One animal you probably think about when you think about the desert is the Sahara Desert camel.
Camels occupy arid regions of the Middle East through northern India and arid regions in Africa, most notably, the Sahara Desert. They have also been introduced to arid regions of central Australia where some of the only feral populations now persist.
Dromedary camels are characterized by a long-curved neck, deep-narrow chest, and a single hump. The hump is composed of fat bound together by fibrous tissue, acting as food storage in times of need. Nutritional status of the camel, becoming smaller and leaning to one side during times of starvation.
They are typically caramel brown or sandy brown in color. Male dromedaries, in comparison to females, arc about 10% heavier, weighing 880 to 1320 lbs (400- 600 Kg). and are about 4 inches (10 cm) taller at shoulder.
They are able to conserve water, by not sweating by changing their body temperature throughout the day from 93 degrees Fahrenheit (34 degrees Celsius) to 107.1 degrees Fahrenheit (41.7 degrees Celsius).
The Sahara Desert is the home of some the most incredible species on the planet. Despite daunting and most challenging conditions, these amazing animals that live there are up for the challenge. Even in difficult conditions, life can prevail, which is really quite inspiring. Next time you’re going through a rough patch, think about the animals of the Sahara and how you can learn from their example.