Come to the Sonoran Desert!
The Desert Biome
Some of the American Deserts
For all deserts, there is less than 50 cm of rainfall a year.
Hazards of deserts include occasional fires, cold weather, and sudden infrequent but intense rains that cause flooding. There are four kinds of deserts; Hot and Dry, Semiarid, Coastal, and Cold.
The Sonoran Desert is located in North America and covers the southwestern parts of the state of Arizona, southeastern parts of the state of California in the United States and the state of Sonora in Mexico. The Sonoran Desert's location is at latitude 25° to 33° North and longitude 105° to 118°.
More rain falls on the Sonoran Desert than any other desert. When it does get rain, the desert is damp, and the air is cool. When it has no rain the desert is really dry and hot. When the desert is windy, the sand gets picked up and tossed around which creates a sand storm or if the wind is blowing in a certain kind of way, it creates a whirlwind or "dust devil". These mini-tornados move across the desert floor and they most often occur in hot weather. The desert valley is hot while up in the mountains it is cool and some mountains are even snow covered.
Spring is a time when flowers bloom if the winter and fall had enough rain that year. In the summer it rains the most and that helps summer flowers grow. Then fall comes with a cooler breeze, which lets the deserts summer heat wear away. Winter brings snow to the mountains and cold air into the desert valley.
Precipitation in the desert is probably less then any other North American state, but it is still a lot for a desert. The Sonoran Desert receives 10 or less inches a year; the eastern part of the Sonora desert, in Baja California, receives 10-12 inches because Baja is by the ocean. The ocean storms brew up more often producing more rain, while the western part of the desert only gets about 2 inches and in the mountains they receive 25 inches.
The Sonoran Desert is a hot place to be. It is sandy with a lot of cacti, but there are forests on the mountains and it is a lot cooler in the forests. The Indians that lived at the edge of the desert carved designs into the walls or rocks.
In the Sonoran Desert, the time where the sun's rays are most intense is from 10AM to 3PM. It would be wise to put on sunscreen with an SPF of 15 (at the VERY least-its not recommended) or more (preferably more), and wear long sleeves, a wide brimmed hat, and sunglasses during those hours. You would need to wear clothes that are light colored, preferably white, to reflect the light instead of absorb it.
The average desert temperature is between 21-27 degrees Celsius, but never goes above 38 degrees Celsius. The summers are long and dry, and winters bring low concentrations of rain. The evening temperature is around 10 degrees Celsius.
The geography in the Sonoran desert is quite interesting. The Sonoran Desert is located in two states, Arizona and California, and two countries, Mexico and United States. The rivers that flow through the desert are the Colorado River and the Gila River. The Salton Sea, the Gulf of California and the Pacific Ocean are bodies of water next to the Sonoran desert. The mountains in the Sonoran Desert are Mount Kofa and Mount Catalina; Mount Catalina receives most of the snow.
In the Sonoran Desert, the Maricopa, Sand Tank and Table Top Mountains, as well as the Booth and White Hills, all separated by wide valleys. The Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain Hotel is the best place to stay in the Sonoran Desert. You could go mountain climbing or horseback riding. You could also go do dune buggy, or watch the sunset. The Sonoran desert is also a very good place to stargaze because of the lack of light pollution.
You would be traveling to the northwestern hemisphere. The Sonoran Desert is mainly in New Mexico, with some parts extending into Arizona, Mexico, and southern California.
The Sonoran Desert has changed. (Oddly enough) Humans have been turning the land of the desert into tourist attractions. These parks have spread for miles taking up the land that belongs to the wildlife. These creatures are then pushed out of their natural habitat. Ranches with our livestock have also been taking up the desert land. People plant crops and some of the seeds have been picked up by the wind or have been picked up by a bird and the seeds start to grow were they land. This cycle begins again and continues, and after a while, the desert starts to have plants that do not belong in the desert.
Map of the Sonoran Desert
There are four types of deserts. Hot and dry deserts, semidry deserts, coastal deserts, and cold deserts. The animals in hot and dry deserts mainly include small, nocturnal carnivores. There are reptiles, insects, arachnids, and birds. The leading animals are kangaroo rats and burrowers. The animals stay in hideaways or inactive in the heat of the day, and come out at dawn, dusk, or night to forage or hunt.
Manny animals in semidry deserts, during the day, find protection in underground burrows where they are protected from both heat and aridity (dryness). Insects move around twigs, jack rabbits follow the moving shadow of a shrub or cactus. Mammals include kangaroo rats, rabbits, and skunks, while the insects are grasshoppers, ants, and the like. The reptiles that live there include lizards and snakes, and there are birds such as burrowing owls or the California thrasher.
Some animals that live in coastal deserts have special adaptations that help them deal with the heat and lack of rain. For example, some toads that live in the coastal deserts close themselves in burrows with jellylike secretions and stay inactive for eight or nine months until a heavy rain happens. Another example is the amphibians that go through larval stages- they have a quicker life cycle, which makes their chances of reaching maturity before the waters evaporate greater. Also, the fairy shrimp and some insects lay eggs that will stay inactive till the right environmental settings are right for hatching. The animals that live in the coastal deserts include insects, coyotes, badgers, toads, lizards, snakes, the great horned owl, golden eagle, and the bald eagle.
The widely spread animals of the cold deserts include jack rabbits, kangaroo rats, kangaroo mice, grasshopper mice, pocket mice, and antelope ground squirrels. All are burrowers except the jack rabbit. The burrowing habit also occurs in carnivores like the badger, kit fox, and coyote. Several lizards also burrow, and do moving of soil. Deer can only be found in the winter.
The Banded Gila Monster, Bobcat, Cactus Wren, Coyote, Desert Bighorn Sheep, Javelina, Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Sonoran Pronghorn Antelope, and the Sonoran Desert Toad are some of the more interesting animals that live in the Sonoran Desert.
The Banded Gila Monster’s scientific name is Heloderma suspectum cinetum. It is a subspecies of the Gila Monster. They can grow to be 2 feet long, can weigh up to 3 pounds, and are pink, orange, and red. Their tails are banded (hence the name), and four or five black bands with spots in them go around the body. Their colors send out a warning that they are venomous.
The Banded Gila Monster is one of two venomous types of lizard in the world. The genus Heloderma means American venomous lizard. It spends most of its life underground in burrows, and is most active in the springtime. It comes out in the morning, and is active during the day. The Banded Gila Monster is a predator. It is not an endangered species, but is on the CITES (Conservation on International Trade in Endangered Species) list for species that can become endangered.
The Bobcat’s scientific name is Felis rufus. Bobcats average 15 to 20 pounds, 2 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet long. Bobcats that live in the desert are a mixture of white, black, brown, and orange. Bobcats were classified as endangered in 1969, giving it full protection, but the species was able to be taken off the list in 200 because of its increased population.
The Cactus Wren’s scientific name is Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus. They are birds, 18-22 cm long, have a long, slightly curved beak, and are black, brown, white, and tan. The Cactus Wren is the largest wren in the U.S. They like to nest in the branches of the chain fruit cholla. Cactus Wrens don’t migrate, and shifts its foraging behavior according to the temperature. It is not considered endangered, but, being a songbird, is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
The Coyote’s scientific name is Canis latrans. They are tan, with some brown and gray, the ends of their hair sometimes being black. Adults can grow to be 4 feet long (including the tail), 2 feet tall, and weigh up to 30 pounds. They are not an endangered species.
The Desert Bighorn Sheep’s scientific name is Ovis canadensis nelson. They are a subspecies of the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. Their horns can weigh as much as 30 pounds. In summer, they are brown with a white patch on their rear, and in the winter, the color fades completely. The average lifespan of a desert bighorn is 9 years. They are not an endangered species.
The Javelina’s scientific name is Tayassu tajacu. It is the only wild pig in North America. The grow to be from 46 to 60 inches long, can weigh up to 60 pounds, and are blackish-gray with a yellowish band that goes under the neck. Javelinas have 3 toes on each back leg, and their upper tusks turn downwards, and are 1.5 inches in length. They are not an endangered species.
The Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl’s scientific name is Glaucidium brasilianum cactorum. Their average length is 6.5 inches, and their average weight is 2.5 ounces. Their colors are cram, reddish-brown, black, white, creamy-brown. They do not migrate, and nest in the hollows of trees or cacti. Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls are currently on the U.S. Endangered Species List.
The Sonoran Pronghorn Antelope’s scientific name is Antilocarta americana sonoriensis. They are native to America and live nowhere else. They are also the last surviving member of the Antilocarpidae family. The Sonoran Pronghorn Antelope is a desert subspecies of the pronghorn. At the shoulders, they stand at less than 3 feet. Their whole body length is 48 to 57 inches. They are tan, white, and black. The Sonoran Pronghorn Antelope usually runs at 35 mph for long distances, but can run at 60 mph in short bursts. They are on the U.S. Endangered Species List, and are on the brink of extinction.
The Sonoran Desert Toads’ scientific name is Bufo alvarius. It is the largest toad found in the United States measuring 7 inches in size. It is olive green with a white “warty” area on the back legs and near the jaw. They eat insects and mice, and can live up to ten years. In the dry winters, the toad stays underground. It survives on the fat in its body during its hibernation. In the spring, the rains “wake” the Sonoran Desert Toad, and the toad will “sing” to attract a female. The Sonoran Desert Toad is not an endangered species.
Banded Gila Monster
Heloderma suspectum cinetrum
The Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl
Glaucidium brasilianum cactorum
The Desert Bighorn Sheep
Ovis canadensis nelson
The desert is 2nd to the rainforest in plant and animal variety.
Desert plants have two main adaptions: the ability to collect and store water and features that reduce water loss. Many cacti lean towards the sun as it grows. Some may eventually uproot themselves. Most plants bloom in the spring after the winter rains, while others bloom in late summer in response to the summer rains. The desert has columnar cacti such as saguaro, organ pipe, and Cardon. The desert also has the greatest diversity of cacti such as the barrels, chollas, and prickly pear. Other types of succulent (jucy) plants are found here. There are the endemic trees like the boojum tree and the elephant tree. The fog dessert in California is classified as part of the Sonoran desert and plants get the water they need directly from the air.
The Saguaro Cactus' stem is green and stores all of the water. Photosynthesis occurs in the top of the stem instead of in the leaves. It has a large amount of roots that extend far away from the cactus, and its fruit is used for Jam and the skeleton is used for building materials. This particular type of cacti only lives in the Sonora desert. The Barrel Cactus' shape allows it to expand and collect water to store it. It has spongy tissue and shrinks back to normal in dry times when the cactus uses the water. The Old Man Cactus has a white hairy surface, which reflects the sun's light off of it. The Prickly Pear Cactus' thorns protect it from anmials when they try to eat it. The Dragon Tree is not from American deserts, as it originates from the Canary Islands. Its sap is called "Dragon's Blood", because when the sap hardens, it turns a dark red. The sap is sometimes used as fake stones in jewelry. The Fish Hook Cactus' spines help divert heat and shades the growing plant. The Desert Spoon has usually thick, succulent leaves that store water. The leaves are tough, so as to reduce water loss. The leaves of the Desert Spoon are trimmed, polished and sold at curios in some places, while the Papago and Pima Indians use the leaves for baskets. The plant has woody stems that contain a sugary sap, which can be turned into a drink called stool.
Aloe's waxy surface acts like a plastic wrapper that keeps the water inside of it. The juice of this plant has been used by Native Americans for medicine, and modern doctors recognize its healing properties. Aloe gel helps to sooth burns, and many people keep an aloe plant in their kitchen.
The plants in the Sonoran desert are very interesting, such as fairy suter, jimson weed (poisonous), tumble weed, night blooming cereus, devils claw, ghost flower, hedgehog cactus and showy four o clock. There are some other plants with out really interesting names: The desert Christmas cactus, prickly pear cactus, desert willow, western wildflower, cave primrose and desert lupine. These desert plants adapt to their climate by seeking coolness. Their roots collect water when it rains. The saguaro cactus has shallow root systems allowing the cactus to store up to 160 liters of rainwater allowing it to live for weeks at a time without water. The other adaptations of the desert plants are that they live in the mountains where shade and coolness is found. The Sonoran desert is also the home to the Mexican jumping beans. Mexican jumping beans are fruits of a shrub. The movement of the moth larva in the bean makes them jump.
The Dragon Tree
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