Animals That Live in the Sand

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Many animals live in the sand to protect themselves from heat, rain, predators and other dangers. Some animals live in the sand close to the water, while other animals inhabit sand dunes at some distance from the nearest body of water. Most animals that live in the sand burrow deeply into it, leaving only a small hole as evidence of their presence.

Kangaroo Rats

Kangaroo rats live in sand dunes and sandy areas both near water and in desert-like places. They are active at night, when the temperatures are lower than the day, and spend much of the day inside their nests in the sand. Their broad hind feet are covered with hair, which helps them move quickly on top of the sand without sinking into it.

Spadefoot Toads

Spadefoot toads live in the sand for up to 10 months of the year, emerging only during the rainiest season to mate and allow tadpoles to grow into adults. Spadefoots stock up on food for the rest of the year at this time as well, and, following the rains, move back into sandy tunnels and dens to hibernate.

Fringe-toed Lizards

Fringe-toed lizards have long, pointed toes covered by scales that look like fringe. These lizards are able to run quickly over sand, and they also burrow deeply into it to create homes where the temperatures can be as much as 50 F cooler than outside. Their eyelids and jaws have adapted to keep sand out, and they hunt at night for smaller animals and insects that also live in the sand.

Ant Lions

Ant lions are insects shaped like arrowheads with long pincers at their wider end. Ant lions burrow backwards into small pits in the sand and wait for other insects to come by, which they then grab with their pincers and hold down while sucking away the prey’s water and ichor. These ferocious-looking sand dwellers were the inspiration for the grotesque creatures used in the movie “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.”

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