The Sahara Desert is the largest hot desert in the whole world. It covers much of North Africa. The adaptations of the people, wildlife, and plants to the harsh environment are very interesting. There is also a lot of cultural history in this important geographic area.
The Wildlife of the Sahara Desert
The Sahara’s environment requires that the wildlife adapts to conditions that are very arid, windy, and hot. There are also extreme temperature differences between night and day. In the heart of the Sahara, most mammals are relatively small. This helps to reduce water loss from their bodies. They live in burrows during the day and come out to hunt and forage when it is cooler at night. Their anatomical adaptations help protect them from the harsh elements.
The Sahara has around 70 species of mammals, 90 bird species, 100 reptile species, and many arthropods species. A few examples of the animals living there include the Barbary sheep, spotted hyena, oryx, Anubis baboon, jackal, dama gazelle, and sand fox. The reptiles include skinks, cobras, chameleons, lizards, and sometimes crocodiles. Arthropods include ants, scarab beetles, and scorpions. Birds include Nubian bustards, secretary birds, and ostriches. The dromedary camel is one of the most famous desert animals. It lived among the desert people after its domestication millennia ago. Its body is highly adapted to desert conditions, and it stores fat and water into its hump.
Plants of the Sahara
The Sahara desert has little plant life, as is common in deserts. The denser areas include the northern and southern borders of the desert where there are oases and drainages. Because of the extreme desert climate, all plants species that have survived here have adapted themselves in some way to cope. For instance, near the oases, plants like tamarisks, date palms, and acacia have very long roots that allow them to find water deep down in the sand. In the drier areas, the flowering plants can grow very quickly from their seeds in the soil following the rain. These roots are not very deep, and it takes them only a few days to go through their entire life cycle and produce seeds while the soil is still moist. These seeds can survive in the soil, dormant for many years, until the next fall of rain for a new growth cycle.
In the most severe areas such as southern Algeria’s Tanezrouft Basin, a very salty region plants, it has been difficult for plants to survive, leaving much of the landscape quite barren.
People of the Sahara
The population of the Sahara desert is estimated to be less than 2 million. This figure takes into consideration the people living on the outskirts of the desert where there is more water available. Also in the number are the communities who move as the season’s change and others who engage in trade and live as a nomad. Most of these people have Berber or Arabic roots. The Berbers came into the picture in the early day of the Sahara’s history. The Arabs came from Arabia and to the scene of the Sahara desert thousands of years ago. Today, most of the people living around the Sahara area follow the Islamic religion.
Sahara has a rich history. In ancient times, people relied on hunting and gathering and a nomadic lifestyle. With changing times, farming began, and communities started to settle in one place. There is also a history of the kingdom, battles for territory, and the beginning of modern society. Many peoples have lived there, including the Berbers, Arabs, Egyptians, Nubians, Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans.