Adaptations to A Desert Biome

desert food web
The picture shows a desert food web.

Desert biomes receive less than 10 inches of rain per year.

Plant adaptations: Desert plants differ in the ways they adapt themselves to the hot and dry environment.

Some desert plants have a short life cycle. When the rains come, these plants sprout quickly, flower and die. Their seeds lie dormant in the soil, until the next rain enables them to germinate and bloom.

Most desert plants grow far apart and their roots extend out so that each plant can get water and minerals from a large area. Other desert plants have roots that extend deep into the ground to obtain water from deep beneath the ground.

When it rains, cactuses and other succulent (juicy) plants take up as much water as possible and store it in their leaves and stems which will provide the water they need during the dry months. Their waxy leaves and stems also slow down water loss through transpiration. Other plants survive by shedding their leaves in dry periods to reduce water loss.

Animal adaptations: Desert animals include many kinds of insects, spiders, reptiles, birds and mammals. They are adapted to the heat as well as scarcity of water.

Deer, foxes, wolves and other animals may visit a desert after a rainfall in search of food. Butterflies and bees emerge from their pupa state to feed on the flowers that bloom. The insects breed quickly so that the next generation reaches the pupa stage before the desert dries up.

The jackrabbit's light-coloured fur helps it blend into its surroundings and its large ears help it to keep cool by giving off heat. Many small animals hide under rocks or dig burrows underground and stay there during the day to escape the heat and the sun. Most desert animals are nocturnal - they avoid the extreme midday heat by feeding at night, when the temperature has dropped and the air is much cooler. Some of them are dormant (inactive) in the summer.

Larger desert animals try to stay in shady areas during the day. They obtain water from the food they eat and from the few water holes that exist in a desert. The camel stores its food as fat in large humps on its back. The stored fats are broken down to help the camel survives long periods without food and water.

More animals of the desert and their adaptations

Camel Adaptations   |   Interactive Assessment Worksheets © by Alan & Hui Meng   |   World Biomes (forest, grassland, tundra & desert)