The African savanna represents extreme biodiversity. The savanna's openness, dotted with a few trees, makes it uniquely suited for animals like hoofed mammals and big cats which have evolved to run very quickly across the plains. Hunting birds and scavengers also flourish due to the expansive nature of the area, as they are more easily able to see their prey or carcasses scattered across the grasslands. Many of these animals have also adapted unique features to deal with the tough climate of the area. For instance, many have learned to digest the tough grasses or to seek shelter underground.
The African savanna is home to many different species of hoofed mammals. In fact, it possesses the greatest biodiversity amongst hoofed mammals of all the biomes in the world. Hoofed mammals, also called ungulates, have evolved long, strong legs for running swiftly across the open grasslands, as well as resilient digestive systems that are capable of processing large amounts of roughage like grass. In fact, most of these creatures eat plants exclusively, and thus are categorized as herbivores. Some examples of ungulates that live on the African savanna are elephants, buffaloes, gazelles, zebras, giraffes, and wildebeest.
African savannas also house several different species of rodents. Because the temperature in the savanna reaches such high temperatures, remaining above 70 degrees Fahrenheit even in the coolest months, many smaller rodents burrow under the ground to keep cool. Specifically, some examples of burrowing rodents are the naked mole rat, which has evolved to feed exclusively on the underground tubers of plants; meerkats, omnivores that live in large underground colonies and feed on many things from plants to insects to small birds; and the dwarf mongoose, a small rodent that feeds on insects.
Wherever grazing herbivores exist, carnivores will also be there to feed on them, and on the African savanna. Specifically, Africa is home to many big cats, including lions, cheetahs and leopards. These carnivores have developed exceptional speed and strength in order to best their prey—for instance, cheetahs, the fastest land mammals on Earth, can run at speeds up to 70 miles per hour, and leopards can carry prey twice their own weight up trees. Additionally, other carnivores like the African wild dog, also call the savannas home.
After a carnivore makes a kill, scavengers arrive on the scene to feed on the leftovers or even try to steal the fresh kill from the cats themselves. Scavengers that live on the African savanna include jackals and hyenas, which are canines, and birds like the turkey vulture. Occasionally, these animals may act as predators, killing their own prey, but usually they wait, searching out signals that indicate evidence of a dead animal.
The openness of the savanna makes it a well-suited home for birds. Not only can these birds seek out prey easily in the wide grasslands, they are also aided by warm updrafts wafting off the ground that help to keep them soaring. And the few trees scattered over the ground here make for excellent nest locations. In fact, over 500 species of birds live in the African Serengeti Plains. Some notable examples include the ostrich, which can reach heights of up to 7 feet; hunting birds like the harrier eagle and the secretary bird that have exceptional eyesight; and the weaverbird, which creates large woven nests from the abundant grass.