Life is the most wonderful mystery of the Universe. From the known part of the universe Earth is the only planet where life exists because of its optimum climate, atmosphere, ecosystems, and variety of landscapes. One of the most essential substances of life is water, the presence of which is recognized to be a sign of life.
Water covers about 70% of the Earth and, surprisingly, water can exist in all three states: solid, liquid, and gas in it. The remaining 30% is covered by land, with deserts accounting for around a fifth of it.
Every continent on the planet has a desert, which on an ecological scale is a “biome” including a variety of ecosystems. Every desert, on the other hand, has its own characteristics, which vary in terms of climate and diversity depending on the latitude and altitude on the planet.
Some are very hot, some are cold, and some are engulfed in vast swaths of sand piled into enormous dune formations. Some are completely frozen and encased in ice. Even those buried beneath thousands of feet of ice are deserts, but that doesn’t imply that they are only located far from the sea. Coastal deserts exist along the ocean’s edge.
Other deserts can be found thousands of kilometers from the sea in the middle of Asia, or the rain shadow of mountain ranges like the Rockies.
The desert ecosystem is the driest ecosystem on the planet. Rainfall or precipitation is very rare in a desert ecosystem, which explains why it has fewer plants and less biodiversity. Desert plants and animals have mastered the skill of surviving in harsh climates.
Reason for less number of species
The desert ecosystem is known to be the least diverse ecosystem in terms of species diversity due to the following limiting constraints.
- Less rainfall/ precipitation
- Extreme temperature
- High-velocity winds
- Scarcity of water
- Low Humidity
- Low quality of soil i.e. less supportive for vegetative growth
Despite all of these impediments and the worst climate, life finds a way to thrive. When we talk about the number of species present in desert ecosystems of the earth the calculation may be bound by the limitations of human ability to discover.
After exploring so many researches and reviewing the literature available I will try to summarize “How many animal species live in deserts”.
Major Deserts of the world and estimated biodiversity in them
There are 23 deserts on the planet, each with a variety of desert species. When we think of a desert, we normally think of somewhere scorching and full of dunes; however, the world’s largest desert is really in Antarctica and amazing creatures thrive in them. Over 300 million years of evolution created the ultimate desert survivors.
The Arctic and Antarctic cold deserts:
The Arctic and Antarctic ice oceans have disclosed a wealth of secrets to Census of Marine Life explorers, who were particularly shocked to discover at least 235 species living in both polar seas despite a 13,000-kilometer gap between them.
To present, there are 7,500 animals in the Antarctic and 5,500 in the Arctic that has been identified. Mammals have developed warm windproof coats and layers of blubber to reduce heat loss in the Antarctic. They also have unique behavioral adaptations, such as polar bears’ hibernation.
The Sahara Desert, which spans much of North Africa, is the world’s largest scorching desert. In total, the Sahara is home to 70 mammalian species, 90 resident bird species, 100 reptile species, and numerous arthropod species. The dromedary camel, which has been domesticated for thousands of years and has long been favored by desert nomads, is perhaps the most famous animal in the Sahara. Not the entire desert, but some areas of Algeria, Mali, Togo, Benin, Niger, and Burkina Faso are home to the Northwest African cheetah, which is a true marvel of nature.
No other animal can match its speed. In the wild, there are about 2000 mature individuals left. In Egypt and Libya, however, it is currently extinct in the wild.
The desert is home to a variety of birds, reptiles, animals, and insects. There are over 500 bird species, 130 mammal species, 100 reptile species, and 20 amphibians in the Sonoran Desert, which is located in the United States of America.
It appears that mammals rule the world; over 5000 species of mammals have colonized every continent, while cold-blooded reptiles thrive in hot deserts. Arabia desert is one of the harshest and driest deserts on the planet. It is home to 172 species, with more than half of them found nowhere else on the planet.
The Australasian continent is isolated from the rest of the world. That’s why The Australian deserts have a diverse reptile fauna, including some rare species such as the thorny devil. In the desert wildlife, goannas, skinks, dragons, and geckoes are common. Australia’s desert lizard species is the most diverse of any desert on the planet.
There are around 40 lizard species in certain areas in central Australia, with over 400 individuals per hectare. The deserts of Australia are home to over 200 bird species. Many of these species are found in moister locations along the shore and are widespread over the continent.
About 40 species are thought to be mostly limited to arid environments. At the time of the European invasion (1788), the Australian deserts had about 95 mammal species. The desert mammal fauna, on the other hand, has seen a high rate of extinction (Menkhorst and Knight, 2001).
Within the desert ecosystem, there is a huge diversity of habitats, from saltwater lakes to freshwater oases, from savannah to rough rocky plains, and from cold glaciers to hot dunes, but life exists in all of them. Because of the high diversity of landscapes and unknown sections of deserts with hidden life, estimating the total number of animal species in deserts is the most challenging task for scientists.
We may estimate that over 1800 animal species can be found in hot deserts and more than 13,500 animal species can be found in the world’s cold deserts, such as the Arctic and Antarctic. To expose the true species richness of the various desert biomes, a thorough scientific meta-analysis in conjunction with fresh research is required.