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Hip Habitats: The Desert

 Deserts are one of the harshest habitats to live. A desert is any large extremely dry area of land with sparse vegetation. One of Earth's major types of ecosystems supporting a community of distinctive plants and animals specially adapted to the harsh environment. 

 Deserts generally receive less than 40 cm or 16 inches of rain in the entire year. In some local desert showers, the rain falling from the clouds evaporates before it even reaches the ground. Winds and the hot temperatures cause it to evaporate. Some deserts are surrounded by mountains, which create rain clouds to regionally move over the deserts.

 Some deserts also are covered in snow or ice, called a cold desert; the largest cold desert is Antarctica. Hot deserts usually feature high temperatures in the daytime and cold temperatures at night. The driest hot desert is the Atacama Desert; the largest hot desert is the Sahara Desert.

In order to survive these conditions all living things have adaptations that help them thrive there. Adaptations can be physical or behavioral. Physical adaptations, such as being small, do better at surviving than larger animals. Behavioral adaptations include being nocturnal.  

 One particular type of animal that we find in desert is reptiles. Reptiles consist of snakes, turtles, and lizards. 9,000 different reptiles call the Sororan Desert in Arizona home. A lot of these reptiles are creatures that cannot be found anywhere else on Earth. How can they survive?

Reptile skin is thick, it's not slimy; so when the water gets on their skin it doesn't absorb. It just sits on their skin like a waterproof jacket. Desert lizards will go ahead in the very early morning when there's usually lots of dew, water droplets in the air, or maybe even a rain shower happen to be, they stand very still and let the water collect and bead on their back. Then they can angle it towards their head and be able to drink it.

Try this at home! Demo Reptile Waterproof Skin: Spray water onto a sheet wax paper and observe the water pool and bead on the paper. Then lift the sides to run all the water into the center and pour into a bowl.

 A symbiotic mutual relationship between two species is widespread in the desert. One example is the Spiny Tailed Lizard and the Fat-tailed Scorpion. The Spiny Tailed Lizard is a reptile, however the Scorpion is an arachnid.

Desert lizards are extremely territorial when it comes to their den. As mentioned above, a lot of the animals in the desert are nocturnal. They are not coming out when the sun is at its hottest; they're coming out more in the evening when it's cooler. In the daytime they're hiding under rocks or underground. The scorpion will provide protection to the lizard's dens or burrows which help the lizard from other predators in exchange for a shaded spot.

For the fans of dioramas, since they are a great learning tool, I created a model of these two animals (using a wide popsicle stick and chenille stems). Don't forget to add highlighter ink to the scorpion! Scorpions are a big threat to humans in the desert, but due to their luminescent exoskeleton bringing along an uv flashlight will reveal them in the dark. The blue-green glow comes from a substance found in the hyaline layer, a very thin but super tough coating in a part of the scorpion's exoskeleton called the cuticle.

Scroll to the bottom for the free infographic about Deserts.

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Thank you for reading this Science Lesson Blog written by certified educator of Philanthrolab Science Shop Ms. Stacey The Science Lady. With over 12 years of teaching experience and creative Science curriculum development, her mission is to inspire children to have a love of Science. She is the owner of Philanthrolab Science Shop. An online shop of 50+ Fun & Affordable Science Toys - ALL $10 or LESS! Featuring The At Home Play Pak, Satchel of Science, and The DIY Sci Kit 

If you found this Lesson Blog to be a great resource, filled with fun ideas and educational content that your young scientist would enjoy, please remember to watch the Livestreams every Thursday and Friday on Facebook and Instagram 1:30 p.m. EST. The At Home Play Pak accompanies the concepts of the Livestreams. This month is all for the egg-laying animals!

Check out my daughter playing and pondering over the egg models! At 3 years old she is my little scientist in training.  

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