On this page is a list of animals that live in the desert, with pictures and facts on each species. We’ve selected desert animals from all over the world, and because many of these species are threatened, we’ve included their conservation status according to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).
Scorpions and camel spiders; reptiles such as the thorny devil, Gila monster, and sidewinder rattlesnake; meerkats and dromedaries; and sandgrouse and lappet-faced vultures are all examples of desert creatures.
Introduction To Deserts & Animals That Live In Deserts
Desserts are places where there isn’t much rainfall. Since the lack of water prevents living creatures from flourishing, deserts are home to a small number of plants and animals (compared to rainforests, jungles, and oceans).
Deserts can be very chilly at night (due to the lack of clouds to block a desert’s heat from escaping into space), despite the fact that they are known for being scorching during the day.
Life in the desert isn’t simple with little water and therefore little food (plants can’t develop without water) — not to mention those harsh temperatures.
Several desert-dwelling species have evolved unique adaptations to enable them to thrive in this harsh environment.
Desert Animal Adaptations
Large ears to dissipate body heat, a light-colored coat to absorb heat, hairy paws for walking on scorching sand, and the capacity to store water or endure on little water are among the desert animal adaptations.
It’s not always hot in the desert. They’re also considered to be deserts because both the Arctic and Antarctica have very little rain (or snow).
‘Cold deserts’ are what these polar places are called. On pages like Arctic Animals and Antarctic Animals, you can learn about the creatures that live in chilly deserts.
The animals listed below live in Africa’s Sahara Desert and Kalahari Desert, as well as North America’s Sonoran Desert and Mojave Desert, Australia’s Great Victoria Desert, and the Middle East’s Arabian Desert.
Desert Animals List
A to Z list of desert animals with pictures and facts about each species. Links to further information are provided for many of the animals.
- Addax nasomaculatus is a critically endangered mammal species that lives in the Sahara Desert.
In the Sahara Desert, the addax is a highly endangered antelope species. Because of its pale coat and long, spiral horns, the species is also known as the “white antelope” or the “screwhorn antelope.”
Poaching is the biggest threat to the addax. The Critically Endangered status of the species has also been influenced by habitat loss, as much of the addax’s usual range has been developed into farmland.
There are only 90 addax left in the wild, possibly as few as 30. In the wild, this desert species is on the verge of extinction.
- Lepus alleni is a Mammal species that lives in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and northern Mexico.
In the desert and other dry environments of the south-western United States, the antelope jackrabbit is a hare. It’s a big hare from North America.
The species’ huge size, long, pointed ears, white/gray sides, white underparts, buff neck and chest, and black/buff back distinguish it from other species.
Cacti and mesquite leaves make up the herbivorous mammal’s diet. (Mesquite is a tiny tree that grows in deserts and other arid environments.)
Arabian Oryx / White Oryx
- Oryx leucoryx is a vulnerable species of mammal that lives in the Arabian Desert.
The genus oryx contains four antelopes: the Arabian oryx is the smallest of them all. Its long, straight horns are nearly 1m tall when measured from the shoulders and stretch 75 cm in length.
In the early 1970s, the Arabian oryx ceased to exist in the wild. Captive animals were reintroduced back into the wild as part of a reintroduction program that started in the 1990s. There are now approximately 850 Arabian oryxes in the wild.
Illegal hunting is the species’ biggest threat.
Arabian Sand Gazelle / Reem
- Gazella marica is a mammal and an Even-toed ungulate that lives in the Syrian Desert and Arabian Desert.
A small antelope known as the Arabian sand gazelle (also called a reem). Its horns’ extremities sweep inwardly.
The Arabian sand gazelle, a desert specialist, formerly lived across the whole Arabian Peninsula. The majority of the population now lives in conservation areas.
The IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) has classified the species as Endangered. Illegitimate hunting and habitat destruction are the main hazards to the species.
Arachnids, order Solifugae, are a kind of animal that can be found in the Syrian Desert.
Camel spiders are known as wind scorpions, sun spiders, and solifuges. They belong to the order Solifugae of arachnids.
The large, powerful mouth parts of many camel spiders may be used to identify them. All camel spiders have four pairs of legs, as well as a pair of ‘predipalps,’ which are finger-like structures that are used for sensing and eating.
Camel spiders do not make silk and do not create webs, unlike their fellow arachnids the spiders.
Camel spider species number in the thousands. They vary in length, from a few millimeters to 15 cm (6 in.) Although some camel spiders live in grasslands and forests, the majority are desert creatures.
- Leiurus quinquestriatus is an arachnid, scorpion-like animal that lives in the desert.
One dangerous desert creature is the deathstalker. It has one of the most poisonous scorpions in the world. This aggressive arachnid’s sting is particularly harsh, and it may be lethal.
In North Africa and Western Asia, the deathstalker can be found in desert and scrubland habitats. It has a length of 2.36 in / 6 cm and comes in a range of colors and patterns, making it difficult to identify.
The venom of the deathstalker may be utilized to detect tumors in the human body, although it isn’t all good news.
- Dipsosaurus dorsalis is a reptile species that may be found in the Sonoran Desert and Mojave Desert.
In the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, the desert iguana can be found. In the deserts in this area, it’s one of the most prevalent lizards you’ll see.
The tail is roughly 1.5 times the length of the body and grows to around 24 inches (60 cm) in length. It has deeper lines running down its back and dark rings on its tail, and its base color is grey/light brown.
Even in high temperatures, the desert iguana is active during the day. It will retreat into a burrow or other shelter if it is disturbed.
- Camelus dromedarius is a domestic animal that can be found in the Sahara Desert.
Among all desert creatures, camels are particularly well-known. In many desert areas, where they were domesticated about 4,000 years ago, these hoofed animals are a common sight. Transport, food, and clothes are all provided by camels.
The solitary-humped dromedary, as well as the two-humped Bactrian and Wild Bactrian, are the three camel species. Camelus is the name of the genus.
Over 94% of all camels are dromedaries, which are by far the most common camel. It is now primarily found in desert settings and is a domesticated animal. The descendants of animals brought to Australia by humans make up the small feral dromedary population in Australia.
For surviving in the desert, the dromedary has a number of features. Bushy eyebrows, double-layered eyelashes, and nostrils that can completely close up all provide protection from sand storms.
The dromedary can go for days without drinking. Its hump can hold both water and energy, in the form of body fat.
- Vulpes zerda is the scientific species name for this animal.
In North Africa and the Middle East, the fennec fox is a mammal. With a maximum body length of around 16 in. (41 cm), it is the smallest member of the Canidae family.
The long ears of the fennec fox can grow up to 15 cm (almost 6 in.) long, making it a popular animal.
The fox’s ears have two distinct functions: they help to keep the fox cool while also providing enhanced hearing (useful for discovering prey underground). Body heat is dissipated into the air by blood vessels close to the skin in the ears.
The fennec fox’s paws are covered in a thick layer of fur that helps to grip the hot sand and protect itself.
The coat of the fennec fox is thick and orange. Even (occasionally) dropping below 0°C, this keeps the fox warm at night in the Sahara Desert, where temperatures may be unexpectedly low.
- The Kalahari Desert is home to the scientific name Phoenicopterus roseus, a bird family Phoenicopteridae.
One of only two flamingo species found outside of the Americas, the greater flamingo is the biggest of the six species.
In Africa, Asia, and Europe, this huge pale pink bird can be found in shallow lakes, lagoons, and estuaries.
The greater flamingo visits shallow lakes and floodplains in desert areas, despite the fact that it is not exclusively a desert animal.
Thousands of greater flamingos arrive in northern Botswana’s Makgadikgadi Pan each year to breed. The Kalahari Desert surrounds the Makgadikgadi Pan’s shallow, highly salty waters.
- Heloderma suspectum is a species of reptile in the Squamata order.
The Gila monster, found in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, can be found in a variety of dry environments. It’s a big, sluggish lizard with a wide range of colors. It has a blotchy black/orange-pink pattern and rounded, bead-like scales.
The only venomous lizards in the Americas are the Gila monster and its Mexican beaded lizard cousin.
These desert creatures pose a significant danger, but it is often exaggerated. While a Gila monster bite is unpleasant, it isn’t life-threatening to most healthy people.
M. auratus is a vulnerable species of mammal found in the Syrian Desert.
The Syrian hamster (also known as the golden hamster) is a wild rodent that can be found in Syria and Turkey.
The wild population of golden hamsters is declining, and the species’ conservation status is Vulnerable, despite being a popular pet in many parts of the world.
Territorial golden hamsters will not allow other hamsters near their areas. Large quantities of food in the cheek pouches are possible for hamsters to carry, which comes in handy if they find additional food than they can consume at one time.
- Order Rodentia (rodent), family Dipodidae, is a mammal that lives in the Gobi Desert.
The Dipodidae family of rodents includes Jerboas. In Northern Africa, Asia, and Australia, they may be found in deserts and other arid environments.
In a similar fashion to kangaroos, Jerboas hop. Their hind legs are long and their fore limbs are short. When jumping or standing upright, a long tail helps the jerboa maintain its balance. Some jerboas can jump almost 10 times their own body length!
Living in the desert requires a variety of adaptations for Jerboas. Camouflage is provided by a sandy coloration, and burrowing is the mode of life. They are active at night or in the evening, which reduces their activity during the day’s hottest hours.
- Vulpes macrotis is a species of mammal in the Carnivora family.
The kit fox is a little canid that lives in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. It is a member of the dog family. It may be found in deserts, scrublands, and grasslands.
The large ears of the species are well known for their ability to both hear and cool the body. Blood vessels in the ears release heat.
Dense hair on the soles of the feet is another adaptation for life in the desert. This gives you traction and protection from the heat on slick sand.
Kit foxes rarely drink. Instead they get most of the water they require from their almost completely carnivorous diet.
They are able to survive the high desert temperatures thanks to their nocturnal, burrowing behavior.
Torgos tracheliotos is a vulnerable species of bird.
In Africa and the Middle East, the lappet-faced vulture is a large bird of prey. It has a large beak, which is almost 4 in. (10 cm) long and 2 in. (5 cm) deep, and a bald, pink/red head. It has an 8.5-foot (2.6-meter) wingspan.
The lappet-faced vulture is likewise believed to pursue live prey on rare occasions, as are other vultures.
The lappet-faced vulture will keep other vultures from eating carrion that it has discovered because of its size and strength. It’s been known to fight a jackal on its own!
The vulture can rip apart even tough skin, tendons, and bone thanks to its enormous beak. Carrion is accessible for smaller vultures and other scavengers because it is a ‘living tin-opener.
- Suricata suricatta is a Namib Desert mammal with a conservation status of Least Concern.
Herpestidae is a mongoose family that includes the meerkat. Deserts and other arid habitats, such as savannah and grassland, are home to this species. The social nature and unique upright posture have earned it a reputation.
This intriguing desert animal can be found in groups of up to 50 individuals. During the day, the group is active, whereas at night, it burrows in huge burrows.
Before heading out to forage, members of a group often groom each other. Sentries monitor the environment for dangers and use various alarm signals depending on the danger to notify the rest of the group.
Mojave Desert Tortoise
- The scientific name is Gopherus agassizii, and it is a reptile found in the Mojave Desert.
The Mojave Desert tortoise may be found in the Mojave Desert of North America, as its name implies. The Sonoran desert tortoise, Gopherus morafkai, was thought to be the same species until 2011. The desert tortoise was the name given to both species prior to that.
In California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona, the Mojave Desert tortoise may be found north and west of the Colorado River. This retiring reptile spends up to 95% of its time underground or hidden in rock dens, and it is rarely seen.
During the winter, the Mojave Desert tortoise hibernates in its own burrows.
The species was designated as Critically Endangered in a 2020 research, which was released in 2021. This is mostly due to habitat degradation.
- Brush-tailed mulgara: Least Concern; Crest-tailed mulgara: Vulnerable
Mulgaras are small marsupials that live in the deserts of central Australia. The brush-tailed mulgara and the crest-tailed mulgara are the two types of mulgara. The tail of the crest-tailed mulgara is crowned with a crestlike ridge.
The Tasmanian devil and the quolls are both members of the Dasyuridae family of mulgaras.
Both species of mulgaras are carnivorous and consume tiny reptiles, insects, and rodents. They maintain energy by going into torpor, a condition of lowered activity that is akin to a ‘mini-hibernation.’
These Australian desert creatures have adapted their kidneys to hold onto water, and they seldom drink.
Namib Desert Beetle / Fogstand Beetle
Stenocara gracilipes is an insect of the Coleoptera (beetle) family that lives in Namib Desert.
The Namib Desert, a coastal desert in southern Africa, is home to the fogstand beetle.
The beetle can collect tiny droplets of water from the early morning fog thanks to its specially designed wing cases. The water flows down the beetle’s back and into its mouth, forming tiny droplets.
In a environment that gets only 1.4 cm (0.55 in.) each year, this is a valuable ability to have!
The ingenuity of this arid bug has piqued the interest of inventors; materials and goods that use similar approaches to capture water from the air are being created!
- Conservation status: Near Threatened (two subspecies are Endangered)
The onager is a hoofed animal belonging to the Equidae family and is also known as the Asiatic wild ass. The species may be found in dry, open environments across Asia, especially the Gobi desert.
The Mongolian wild ass, Turkmenian kulan, Persian onager, and Indian wild ass are the four surviving subspecies of this species. They are distributed across Asia, each in a distinct area. Both the Turkmenian onager and the Persian onager are classed as endangered species.
One of the quickest animals on the planet is the onager. It can reach speeds of up to 70 kilometers per hour (43 miles per hour).
- Anaxyrus punctatus is an amphibian species that lives in the Mojave Desert.
In the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, this small toad may be found in deserts and other dry environments. It has light olive green skin with black patches and smaller red spots, and grows to be about 3 inches (7.6cm) long.
The red-spotted toad hides in sheltering rocky crevices beside streams for most of the day. It emerges from its sheltering place most frequently during times of rain.
- Scientific name: Geococcyx californianus, a Cuculidae bird species.
The other species of roadrunner, the lesser roadrunner (Geococcyx velox), is found in Mexico and Central America. The greater roadrunner is one of two species. The genus Geococcyx, which belongs to the Cuculidae family of cuckoos, is the sole living species in the group.
Roadrunners spend the majority of their time on the ground and are skilled runners, despite the fact that they can fly when necessary.
Even Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest sprinter, can only reach this speed for a few seconds in a race. The bigger roadrunner may sprint at up to 26 mph (41.8 km/h) – faster than any other non-flightless bird.
Saharan Silver Ant
- Scientific name: Cataglyphis bombycina
- Type of animal: Insect, family Formicidae (the ant family)
- Where found: Sahara Desert
- Conservation status: Unassessed
Little hairs on the body of this African desert ant give it a silvery appearance; a unique trait that protects the insect from overheating in the hot desert environment.
The Saharan silver ant has several adaptations for surviving in the desert, including six-legged walking and maintaining its body at a distance from the scorching sand.
The Saharan silver ant only leaves its nest for around 10 minutes each day, so these modifications are critical. It’s crucial that the temperature be high enough for ant-eating lizards to seek shelter.
Sand Cat / Sand Dune Cat
- Mammal, order Carnivora, family Felidae (the cat family) Scientific name: Felis margarita
Sahara Desert and Arabian Desert are two deserts where it may be found.
In northern Africa and the Middle East, the sand cat is a seldom-seen desert cat. It has pale, sandy-colored hair that is frequently marked with darker spots or stripes and is smaller than a domestic cat.
The sand cat’s paws are covered in a layer of thick fur that protects them from the scorching desert sand.
The sand cat is supposed to have hearing that is much better than a household cat’s, with large, pointed ears.
Nocturnal or crepuscular (active at daybreak and dusk) is the natural habitat of the sand cat. In the hottest months of the year, it is only active during the day.
- Birds in the Pteroclidae family make up this animal.
- Deserts in Africa and Asia are where it can be found.
The Pteroclidae family includes sandgrouses. Deserts and other arid environments are home to the majority of this family’s 16 members.
Seed-eaters, these medium-sized ground-dwelling birds. Sandgrouses congregate around waterholes in large numbers and then go out to forage for seeds alone or in smaller groups.
The Kalahari Desert and the Namib Desert are both home to the Namaqua sandgrouse (seen above).
- Crotalus cerastes is the scientific name for this species of reptile.
- The Mojave Desert and other parts of the southwest United States and northwest Mexico were discovered.
- Conservation status: Least Concern
In California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona, the sidewinder is a rattlesnake species that lives in desert areas. Northern Mexico is also home to this species.
The species’ name comes from the fact that it can move at fast speeds across sand by anchoring its tail and pushing its head forward, then pulling its tail forward and repeating the process. The snake’s body appears to be moving sideways, despite the fact that its head is pointing in the direction of travel.
Several desert snakes utilize this form of locomotion, which is known as sidewinding.
Because of the horn-like scales protruding out from above its eyes, the sidewinder is also called the horned rattlesnake.
Venomous snakes are found on the sidewinder. Its bite is very unpleasant, but it is seldom fatal. As compared to most other rattlesnakes, the sidewinder’s venom is relatively weak.
Southern Marsupial Mole
- Mammal, marsupial, scientific name is Notoryctes typhlops.
- The Great Victorian Desert was discovered.
When various species of animals have the same kind of lifestyle, convergent evolution occurs when they acquire similar characteristics or talents.
Convergent evolution is exemplified by the marsupial mole, an Australian desert creature. Although it has a marsupial appearance and behavior, it is only distantly related to the animals from which it gets its name.
The hot, arid deserts of inner Australia are home to this rat-sized desert marsupial. It searches for earthworms and other invertebrates in subterranean tunnels.
The marsupial mole is blind, and it is thought that it relies on its sense of smell to find food.
Tarantula Hawk Wasp
- Pepsis grossa / Pepsis formosa (and other species of the genera Pepsis and Hemipepsis) is the scientific name.
- The Pompilidae (spider wasp) family includes insects, of which this is one.
- Where found: Mojave Desert
Large wasps of the genus Pepsis are known as Tarantula hawk wasps.
Pepsis grossa is one of the most well-known tarantula hawk wasp species. After that of the infamous bullet ant, its sting is thought to be the second most painful in the insect world.
On the Schmidt sting pain index, a scale for rating insect stings, the tarantula hawk’s sting scores a 4 – the highest score. The sting is brief-lived and non-fatal to humans, despite how exquisitely painful it is.
In the southern United States and Mexico, Pepsis grossa may be found. It attacks tarantula spiders with its strong sting.
The tarantula hawk wasp is the state insect of New Mexico.
- Reptile, order Squamata Moloch horridus is the scientific name for this animal.
- Conservation status: Least Concern, found in the Great Victorian Desert
Dry places throughout much of central and west Australia are home to the thorny devil, a tiny lizard. Spines cover its body and limbs. A fleshy growth with two large horns sits atop its head, dubbed the “decoy head.” It is used to discourage potential predators from approaching.
Water is transported to the mouth of the thorny devils via tiny grooves in their skin. The lizard may absorb moisture that forms on its body throughout the night using this technique.
- Scientific name: Cyclorana platycephala
- Amphibians (frogs and toads) belong to the order Anura.
- The Great Victorian Desert was discovered there.
In Australia’s arid center, the water-holding frog lives in the desert.
The water-holding frog lives on the ground, despite being a member of the Hylidae family (tree frogs).
In reality, the species spends the majority of its life cocooned up to 1 meter (3.28 feet) underground. It rarely emerges when it is in a swamp or waterhole to breed after a period of heavy rain.
The water-holding frog may aestivate during dry spells. The frog becomes inactive in order to conserve energy, which is a condition similar to hibernation.
The water-holding frog is so-named because it stores water in its bladder when buried. Australian aborigines used to dig the frogs up as a source of water.
Wild Bactrian Camel
- Camelus ferus is an animal that belongs to the Even-toed ungulate family.
- Where found: Gobi Desert
- Conservation status: Critically Endangered
The desert Bactrian camel is a unique species that is rapidly declining. The Bactrian camel, which has been domesticated, is closely related to it.
The wild Bactrian camel has two humps, whereas the domesticated Bactrian camel has just one. In terms of total size, the species is somewhat smaller than its counterpart in the household.
Even saltier than seawater, the wild Bactrian camel is said to be able to tolerate it.
In the wild, there are only around 950 wild Bactrian camels left. The Lop Nur Wild Camel National Natural Reserve in China has a population of about 600 people. Mongolia’s Strictly Protected Area, the Great Gobi, has about 350 people. Their population is dwindling.
Desert Animals For Kids: Conclusion
Meeting these desert animals was our goal for today. What is your favorite desert animal? Have you seen any of these creatures in the wild? Do you have any other suggestions for the list of desert creatures?
Tell us what you think in the comments below; we appreciate your feedback.