Australia is a very dry continent with 2/3 of its landmass being
deserts or semi deserts. But those areas are not lifeless.
As well as
plants, the animals of dry regions have clever adaptations that help
them survive in this harsh environment.
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Australian Desert Animals: Reptiles
ectothermic (cool-blooded animals) and they thrive in deserts because
living in temperate or colder regions, they have difficulties to keep
up their body heat. In Australian deserts, there is a large number of snakes,
for example Stimson’s Python (Antaresia
stimsoni), Woma (Aspidites ramsayi), Blind
Death Adder (Acanthophis pyrrhus), Yellow-faced
psammophis), King Brown Snake (Pseudechis australis),
Brown Snake (Pseudonaja modesta), Western Brown
nuchalis) and Myall Snake (Suta Suta).
Other reptiles found
in Australian deserts are Thorny Devil (Moloch horridus),
Bearded Dragon (Pogona sp.), Pygmy Mulga Monitor (Varanus
gilleni), Central Netted Dragon (Ctenophorus Nuchalis)
countless number of other lizards.
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Australian Desert Animals: Small Mammals
Most of the desert mammals are small. Being small, they can burrow
holes and get shelter from the heat easier than larger animals. Most of
them rest in their burrows during the midday heat, and go out during
the night when it’s cool. Small mammals in Australian deserts include
Spinifex Hopping Mouse (Notomys alexis), Bilby (Macrotis
lagotis), Western Pygmy Possum (Cercatetus concinnus),
Wongai Ningaui (Ningaui ridei), Kultarr (Antechinomys
the endangered Mulgara (Dasycercus cristicauda) and
Dunnart (Sminthopsis crassicaudata).
Because fat increases body heat, many desert animals store their fat in
tail, instead of body. Another adaptation to decrease body heat is
having big ears, like in bilby. In Australian deserts, there are also
the White-striped Mastiff Bat (Talarida australis),
(Tachyglossus aculeatus) – an animal
that has adapted to every single habitat in Australia, from hot deserts
to cold snowy mountains.
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Australian Desert Animals: Large Mammals
Not many large mammals are living in deserts. It is because they are
too large to make burrows to escape the heat. They have to have a very
good thermoregulation and they have to be able to storage water or go
without water for long periods in order to be able to survive. An
advantage compared to small animals is, that being bigger, they can
move around on larger areas to find water. Some of the large Australian
desert animals are Red kangaroos
(Macropus rufus), dingos
(Canis lupus dingo) and feral camels (Camelus
Camels are able to store large amounts of water so they can go without
drinking water for long periods. Red kangaroos concentrate their urine
to minimise water loss. They are also inactive and lay in shade during
the midday heat, grazing mostly in dusk and dawn. Hopping also saves
them energy. Hopping is a much more energy efficient way to get around
than is walking or running.
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Australian Desert Birds
There are also many birds in Australian deserts. Birds can cope with
heat easier than animals. They are endothermic like mammals, but they
can tolerate heat better because (1) their normal body temperature is
higher than this of mammals (more than 40°C); and (2) because they fly.
Even though not many birds are nocturnal and they often fly in the
sunshine, they don’t get as easily overheated as do animals because the
air is as hottest on the ground and cooler higher up where they fly.
Flying is also much quicker than running or walking, so they can
quickly fly to water bodies for a dip or a drink. Flightless birds are
either nocturnal or large. Being large means having less surface per
body mass (surface is where the heat gets into the body but not
necessarily out); and being able to travel large distances, like
that move around in large flocks following
rains and avoiding drought. Some other birds in Australian deserts are
many species of parrots
however they do rely on some water sources in flying distance, and they
tend to avoid the driest deserts like the waterless plains of inland Western
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