Fauna's Life: in Cold Deserts
A snow leopard, an endangered animal usually found in high altitudes
There are also animals living in the cold deserts. Some animals can live in hot deserts and also in cold deserts, but some have specially adapted to living in the very low temperatures of cold deserts.
There are quite a number of animals that live in the Gobi, Great Basin, and Atacama deserts. They have developed special adaptations to withstand the cold temperatures, like the presence of very thick fur and the inability to sweat. But mammals are more likely to appear in cold deserts than reptiles. With coats of fur and warm blood (meaning that they can maintain a stable internal temperature even when the ambient atmospheric temperature dips), mammals are well-adapted to deal with freezing winters. However, some lizards and snakes do make their homes in certain cold deserts.
In the Gobi, there live bactrian camels, gazelles, golden eagles, gerbils, jerboas, lizards, wolves, and even the elusive snow leopard. The smallest animal species living in the Gobi is known as the jerboa. These small rodents are built almost like kangaroos, with powerful hind legs allowing them to leap as much as 10 feet at a time.
Another animal species that makes the Gobi desert its home is the snow leopard. They used to roam across the cold Gobi in great numbers, but as the human population of the area has grown their numbers have dwindled. Snow leopards are now on the Endangered Species list, with only as many as 1,700 individual leopards remaining in the wild.
These are only a few of the species that call the Gobi their home. Many other animals that live in the Gobi desert, like camels, wolves, musk ox, and ibex, are also found in other parts of the world. The climate and terrain may be extreme, but animal life continues to find a way to survive. In the distant past, when the climate was different, the area of the Gobi Desert was home to a vast number of animals. Today it is rich and diverse source of fossils for paleontologists.
The Great Basin desert serves as the home of bighorn sheep, jackrabbits, pocket mice, poorwills, pronghorn antelope, sage thrashers, and side-blotched lizards. And surprising it may seem, there are also animals living in the Atacama, the driest desert in the world! Lizards, llamas and Peruvian foxes have found some way to live in this harsh environment. And this desert also serves as a nesting area for many seabirds.
There are two other important cold deserts found in the polar regions: the Arctic and Antarctic deserts. The Arctic desert is found in the North Pole which is in the Northern hemisphere, 90° N, while the Antarctic desert is found in the other end of the globe, in the South Pole in the Southern hemisphere, 90° S.
Antarctica is Earth's southernmost continent. It is situated in the Antarctic region of the Southern Hemisphere, almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle, and is surrounded by the Southern Ocean. At 14.0 million km2 (5.4 million sq mi), it is the fifth-largest continent in area after Asia, Africa, North America, and South America. For comparison, Antarctica is nearly twice the size of Australia. About 98% of Antarctica is covered by ice that averages at least 1 mile (1.6 km) in thickness. Antarctica, on average, is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent, and has the highest average elevation of all the continents. Antarctica is considered a desert, with annual precipitation of only 200 mm (8 inches) along the coast and far less inland. Only cold-adapted organisms survive there, including many types of algae, animals (for example mites, nematodes, penguins, seals and tardigrades), bacteria, fungi, plants, and protista.
The animals living in the Antarctic region basically have to deal with the cold so they have outer layers of dense fur or water-repellent feathers. Under this fur or feather layer is a thick layer of insulating fat.
There six types of seal that live in Antarctica: Antarctic Fur Seals, Crabeater Seals, Leopard Seals, Ross Seals, Southern Elephant Seals, and Weddell Seals. However, these six species make up the majority of the world's seal population. They survive in the Antarctic because they have this thick fur coat to protect themselves, and they have blubber between their internal organs and their skin. Their blubber is usually around 4 inches thick. for heat. They have also these flippers for them to swim and get food.
Penguins can also be found in this desert. There are four species of penguins that live in the continent itself: Adélie Penguins, Chinstrap Penguins, Emperor Penguins, and Gentoo Penguins. Part of their adaptation to the cold includes oily, unwettable feathers which cover the outer layers of penguins (and what gives that distinguished, well dressed look). Underneath is a layer of soft down feathers and under that a thick layer of fat. This keeps the penguins so warm they will actually fluff their feather to released trapped heat in order to cool down. And also the dark plumage of a penguin's dorsal surface (her back) absorbs heat from the Sun, which increases body temperature further.
In addition to their fine attire, penguins are well known for their swimming abilities. Using their flippers for propulsion and their feet as a rudder, penguins can swim in excess of 12 mph (20 kph). Through the use of air sacs to protect their lungs, penguins can stay under water for 15 to 20 minutes and dive as deep as 275 feet (900 meters). Although very near-sighted on land, penguins posses exceptional vision in the water. Their eyes, like the many sea animals, are attuned to the colors of the sea--green, blue-green, and violet. They need this excellent vision to avoid leopard seals and killer whales, which are their primary predators in the ocean. On land their arch enemy are skuas (large birds) which snatch penguins chicks from nests.
Compared to other regions, insects are scarce and small in Antarctica. only 67 species have been recorded, and most are less than 2 mm long. Most of them are parasites, like lice which live in the feathers and fur of birds and seals, where they are protected from the harsh climate for much of the time. Collemola (springtails) are the only free-living insects. They feed on algae and fungi, and remain dormant in winter. Mites, which belong to the spider family, are the commonest land animals. One of them, which is only 0.3 mm long, is the world’s most southerly indigenous animal. Many of the mites avoid freezing by a physical process known as "supercooling", whereby their body fluids are maintained in a liquid state in temperatures below their normal freezing point.
The Arctic is is a polar region located at the northernmost part of the Earth.The Arctic region consists of a vast, ice-covered ocean, surrounded by treeless permafrost. The area can be defined as north of the Arctic Circle (66° 33'N), the approximate limit of the midnight sun and the polar night. This desert is in the North Pole.
The Arctic desert is made up of winter sea ice that stretches as far south as the tip of Greenland, sealing the ocean like a crystalline lid. Icebergs become trapped in the winter ice, but when the ice melts, they can drift for thousands of miles. Fauna here are walruses, polar bears, seals,
Animals here, like those of the Antarctic, have developed thick coats of fur and insulating blubber to survive in this cold place. Polar bears have much shaggier fur that is good for keeping warm in the air but not nearly effective in water. But they have blubber so it has no fear of the cold.
Walruses also live in the Arctic. They are the biggest Arctic species of seal, weighing up to 1,200 kg. It has 2 tusks which are mainly just a sign of rank, but they also come in handy if a walrus needs to haul itself out of the water. They eat seabed clams, sucking them from the chilly mud like gigantic vacuum cleaners.
Below are some pictures of fauna living in cold deserts.