The usual picture we have of any desert is the cartoon image of the big cactus with “arms” and people crawling across the sand, leaving a trail by the skull of a long-dead animal. But many deserts are teeming with life. The Sonoran desert in Arizona is no exception.
The saguaro cactus is the one with “arms” and a full-grown one will hold about 600 gallons of water inside. Birds drink by poking small holes in the cactus, and owls build nests in them. The cactus itself is held up by a skeleton of tubes. When a saguaro dies, it leaves a skeleton of these tubes, and even they are useful. They keep smaller animals off the ground so they can rest from their prey. The large lizard here is an example.
The mountain lion is another animal that lives in the desert. This one has had a nice meal and is napping in a crevice of rock. They are dangerous animals, despite his peaceful look. There was also a foot of glass between us, and I was grateful.
Lizards, snakes, tarantulas, desert squirrels, mice, shrews and a host of insects and birds thrive in the desert. They have adapted to the heat and scarce water. Now it’s our turn.
–Quinn McDonald is a writer and naturalist recently transplanted from Washington, D.C. See her work at QuinnCreative.com Images and text, (c) 2007, Quinn McDonald. All rights reserved.