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Desert Plants & Animals

 King Bird

Unlike the other birds of the desert who only hunt during the early morning or after sunset, the king bird will hunt during the day time--even in the hottest part of day.  It has to stop and sit in the shade of plants during the day so they don't overheat from the sun.

Leopard Lizard

The Leopard Lizard is known for its long legs and toes which it uses to lift itself high off the ground in order to reduce how much heat it takes in from the desert.

Jack Rabbit


Jackrabbits stay cool through their large ears. Their ears are full of blood vessels that carry warm blood to the surface of their skin, which allows them to cool as they rest in the shade.  An interesting fact about the Jackrabbit is its ears are usually pointed toward the North Star.

Big Brown Bat

 The big brown bat is exactly what it sounds like...its a big, brown bat that is very common in deserts.  Bats use what is called "echolocation" or using echos to know where their prey and avoid things in their way.  These bats are insectivorous, or eat insects. They prefer eating beetles over other insects, using their powerful jaws to chew through the beetles' hard exoskeleton. They will also eat other flying insects including moths, flies, wasps, and flying ants all of which they capture while in flight.
Spadefoot Toad

Spadefoot Toads remain dormant, or a deep sleep, deep underground until the summer rains fill the ponds.  Raindrops hitting the ground make the toads want to emerge, breed, lay eggs, and feed to replenish their bodies.  They do all of this in a very short time before burying themselves again in the cooler, moist ground.



The tarantula escapes heat by burrowing itself under the ground until night time when they come out to hunt in the cooler weather.

 Agave Plant

The agave plant stores are commonly called "water hoarders" meaning they store water in their fleshy leaves, stems, or roots.  This helps keep the plants cool during the hot desert days as it helps less water evaporate out of it.  They also have shallow roots to quickly absorb water from rain or dew from the early morning or from a rain shower.

 Much like the Agave, the cactus stores water in its stems, leaves, and roots.  They too are "water hoarders" or save a lot of water in the plant.  They have shallow roots in order to catch water from morning dew or after rain shower.  The cactus has prickly needles on the outside for protection from birds and other animals who may want to steal the water within. 
Desert Sand Verbena
 In order to save its water, the Agave plant will drop its leaves and flowers in order to survive the desert heat. When more moisture or precipitation comes, they grow back their leaves and flowers again. They avoid drought by growing only during the spring time.

 Ironwood Tree 
(Top--leaves have dropped, looking almost dead; Bottom--the leaves are still on the tree)

Like the desert sand verbena, the ironwood tree is able to drop its leaves during the extremely hot periods to save water.  They will grow back when there is enough moisture to have leaves. 


The mesquite uses long roots, which sometimes can reach 60 feet in depth, to reach far below the sand in order to get water from the water table--the main level of water in an area. This root system keeps the plant alive during the hot and dry periods.It drops its leaves during hot times or drought. In order to stay alive they go dormant, or asleep until it can get water, during times of severe drought.


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