The coastal deserts lie on the western coast of Africa and South America close to the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. They include the coastal desert of Western Sahara, the Skeleton Coast of Namibia and Angola, and the Atacama Desert of Chile. A portion of the western coast of Baja California also possesses some of the attributes of a coastal desert. The coastal deserts have a harsh climate, but a surprising number of animals manage to survive.
Elephants live in the Kaokoveld, the coastal desert of Namibia and Angola, according to World Wildlife. The elephants know where the water holes are, and if they exhaust the water in one place, they will journey through the desert to another one. If they find that a water hole is apparently dry, they often can find a little water by burrowing down a short distance with their trunk.
The black rhinoceros has dwindled in number throughout Africa as a result of the activities of poachers. But rhinos still survive in the Kaokoveld. Because poachers kill rhinos for their horns, conservation authorities have been cutting off the horns to ensure poachers will have no reason to kill the rhinos, according to World Wildlife.
Cheetah and Warthog
The desert of Namibia plays host to a surprising variety of large mammals, especially when a low area called the Etosha Salt Pan fills with water. The warthog and the cheetah are an interesting pair. The warthog is a tough animal, but it must watch out for lurking cheetahs if it wants to survive
In the Atacama Desert, the coastal desert of Chile, large mammals are conspicuously absent. Pseudalopex griseus, the gray fox, lives here, as well as the small mammals on which it feeds. The gray fox involuntarily assists scientists in their study of Atacama fauna. By examining the feces of the gray fox, scientists learn what animals the fox eats, according to Science Direct.
Birds also live in coastal deserts. Tyto alba, the barn owl, preys on small mammals not only in the Atacama Desert, but also in the coastal desert of Western Sahara, according to Science Direct and Bird Photos. Barn owls also frequent the coastal desert of Namibia, according to Etosha National Park.
The coastal desert of Namibia has been called the Skeleton Coast because of the many shipwrecks that occurred in the area. Vultures frequent this coastal desert. One of them, the lappet-faced vulture, has declined in numbers. Though not in immediate danger of extinction, the lappet-faced vulture is classified as vulnerable, according to the Namibia Nature Foundation. Vultures also abound in the Atacama Desert, according to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.
Deserts are a congenial biome for lizards, and all coastal deserts are home to them. The coastal desert of Namibia has more than 60 lizards, including eight that are endemic to the region, according to World Wildlife. The Atacama Desert also has its share of lizards. The lava lizard, for example, is Microlophus atacamensis.
- University of California Museum of Paleontology: The Desert Biome
- World Wildlife Fund: Atacama Desert (NT1303)
- Go2Africa: Namibia-Parks and Reserves-Skeleton Coast Park
- "Encyclopedia of Deserts"; Michael A. Mares; 1999
sand dune in the atacama desert image by rrruss from Fotolia.com