Chapter 6 Animal Life Histories
Timing Is Critical
Use of temporary water by amphibians and aquatic animals
Limiting water loss during reproduction
Scaphiopus couchii (Couch's Spadefoot Toad) outlines the natural history of this desert dweller. By Shauna Alexander of the University of Michigan.
A Pothole in the Road of Life provides interesting insights into life in desert potholes. By Leslie Mullen of NASA.
Desert Animals and Wildlife provides interesting facts, including life history descriptions, about common desert animals. From Desert USA.
1. In most temperate regions the life cycle of animals is primarily cued by seasonal changes in temperature and daylength. Not so in the desert. Describe the environmental cues desert animals use to time their activities. Include examples in your description.
2. As a group, amphibians are not ideally suited for desert survival. Nevertheless, a few amphibians, such as the spadefoot, do exist. a) List at least four characteristics of amphibians that make them poorly suited for desert life. b) Consider the spadefoot. Describe how it overcomes these seemingly unfit adaptations. (You may want to refer back to Chapter 5.)
3. Remarkably some aquatic animals, such as fairy shrimp, are able to survive in the desert. Compare and contrast the survival strategies of fairy shrimp, an ephemeral plant (Chapter 2), and a nematode (Chapter 5).
4. Reproduction can greatly increase water loss but some desert animals have means to minimize this water loss. Describe the adaptations of small mammals that minimize water loss during reproductive activities.
5. Some desert species have foregone sexual reproduction. For example, several whiptail lizard species are entirely female. a) What are the advantages and disadvantages of asexual reproduction? b) Describe the niche of some parthenogenic whiptail species and how their niche may help them persist in the desert despite lacking the advantages of sexual reproduction.
6. Ants and termites are particularly common in the desert. Explain how their social way of life may benefit them in the desert.
7. Some animals, particularly birds, migrate to and from the desert. What proportion of desert birds are migratory, and where do they go?