Desert Animals: 51 Common Animals That Live in the Desert

Last Updated on November 4, 2023

What animals live in the desert? Deserts are among the harshest environments on Earth, with extreme temperatures, scarce water resources, and limited food sources. Yet animals have adapted to these conditions – in this article, we’ll look into the world of desert animals, explore what they are, what types live there, and learn some interesting facts about some common desert animals.

Desert Animals

What Are Desert Animals?

Desert animals are a diverse group of creatures that have adapted to survive in harsh desert environments. These adaptations may include physiological modifications like conserving water or controlling body temperature, as well as behavioral modifications like foraging at night or digging burrows to escape the heat during the daytime. Desert animals can be found on every continent except Antarctica and range in size from tiny insects to massive mammals. Despite their diversity, all desert creatures share one common struggle: conserving water. Desert environments typically experience little rainfall so animals must become highly efficient at retaining what little water they do find.

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List of Animals That Live in the Desert

  • Camel
  • Gila Monster
  • Fennec Fox
  • Desert Tortoise
  • Scorpion
  • Rattlesnake
  • Roadrunner
  • Kangaroo Rat
  • Desert Bighorn Sheep
  • Vulture
  • Dromedary
  • Bactrian camel
  • Sand cat
  • Arabian oryx
  • Addax
  • Dingo
  • Desert hare
  • Desert kangaroo rat
  • Meerkat
  • Ostrich
  • Sidewinder
  • Sonoran Desert toad
  • Sphinx moth
  • Thorny devil
  • Coyote
  • Hyena
  • Jerboa
  • Monitor lizard
  • Nubian ibex
  • Horned lizard
  • Desert iguana
  • Chuckwalla
  • Kit fox
  • Sand viper
  • Jackal
  • Antelope jackrabbit
  • Black-tailed jackrabbit
  • Caracal
  • Black widow spider
  • Tarantula
  • Kangaroo mouse
  • Bighorn sheep
  • Golden eagle
  • Brown hyena
  • Black-backed jackal
  • Spiny-tailed iguana
  • Rock hyrax
  • Sandgrouse
  • Viper
  • Short-horned lizard
  • Desert monitor

What Kinds of Animals Live in the Desert?

Animals That Live in the Desert

Desert environments can be divided into four distinct types: hot and dry, semiarid, coastal, and cold. Each environment has unique characteristics that determine which animals will thrive there.

Hot and dry deserts, also referred to as true deserts, are marked by high temperatures and minimal rainfall. Animals that live here must be specialized for survival due to the intense heat and limited water resources. Common creatures found here include reptiles like snakes and lizards; small mammals like rodents and rabbits; birds like vultures and owls; as well as reptiles like snakes and lizards.

Semiarid deserts are similar to hot and dry deserts, except they receive slightly more rainfall. This increases plant diversity which then supports a wider variety of animals. Common creatures found here include desert tortoises, kangaroo rats, as well as various bird species.

Coastal deserts are found where ocean currents create dry, arid conditions. Here, animals like seabirds and marine mammals like sea lions and seals live alongside desert-adapted creatures like foxes and coyotes.

Cold deserts are areas with low rainfall and freezing temperatures. Animals that survive here must deal with extreme cold, as well as limited food and water sources. Common creatures found in cold deserts include snow leopards, mountain goats, rodents, and bird species of all types.

Common Desert Animals with Quick Facts


Camels are often referred to as the “ships of the desert” due to their remarkable capacity for carrying heavy loads over long distances. They have evolved specifically for desert conditions, with thick fur that protects against sunlight and an impressive thirst that allows them to go long periods without water.

Gila Monster

The Gila monster is one of only two venomous lizards in the world and can be found in deserts throughout the southwestern United States and Mexico. Their distinctive black and pink pattern on their skin indicates they are slow-moving creatures who spend most of their time underground in burrows.

Fennec Fox

The fennec fox is the smallest species of fox found in North Africa’s Sahara Desert. Their large ears help them dissipate heat, and their fur is pale to reflect sun rays. Most fennec foxes are nocturnal hunters, feeding on insects, small mammals, and fruit.

Desert Tortoise

The desert tortoise is a large herbivorous reptile found in North American deserts. Their dome-shaped shell protects them from predators and intense sun exposure, enabling them to survive for extended periods without water. Due to this adaptation, desert tortoises have evolved the ability to survive in harsh desert environments for extended periods.


Scorpions are nocturnal arachnids commonly found in desert environments around the world. They possess a distinctive tail with a stinger that they use to defend themselves against predators. Scorpions feed on insects, spiders, and other small animals during the night.


Rattlesnakes are venomous snakes commonly found in desert environments across North and South America. They have a distinctive rattle on their tail to alert potential predators of their presence. Rattlesnakes tend to be ambush predators, feeding on small mammals such as birds.


The roadrunner is a bird found in North and Central America’s deserts. They stand out with their long tail and crest of feathers on their head, giving them an unmistakably distinct appearance. Roadrunners are fast runners and can outrun most predators. They feed on insects, lizards, and small mammals for sustenance.

Kangaroo Rat

Kangaroo rats are small nocturnal rodents found in North America’s deserts. These rodents have evolved to survive in dry environments and can go without water for extended periods of time. Kangaroo rats are renowned for their impressive jumping ability, which helps them evade predators and remain undetected.

Desert Bighorn Sheep

Desert bighorn sheep are large mammals found in North America’s deserts. These adaptations, such as their thick coat of fur that protects them from the sun and their ability to go without water for extended periods, enable them to survive harsh conditions. Furthermore, desert bighorn sheep tend to form social groups and usually travel in herds.


Vultures are scavenger birds commonly found in desert environments worldwide. These well-adapted creatures thrive in harsh conditions where food may be scarce and have an acute sense of smell that allows them to detect carrion even from long distances.


Desert animals are a remarkable and diverse group of creatures that have adapted to survive in some of Earth’s harshest environments. From the iconic camel to the venomous scorpion, each has developed unique adaptations that enable them to endure extreme temperatures, limited water resources, and scarce food supplies.

As our planet faces increasing environmental issues, it is essential to comprehend the intricate ecosystems found in deserts around the world and work towards safeguarding these delicate environments for future generations to enjoy.


3 thoughts on “Desert Animals: 51 Common Animals That Live in the Desert”

    • Of course! Thank you for reaching out to us at One desert animal that starts with the letter “z” and can be found in the Middle East is the zorilla, also known as the striped polecat. We hope this recommendation helps!


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