An herbivore is an animal that eats only plants and no meat.
However, many herbivores will eat eggs and occasionally other animal protein. This group also includes granivores (animals that eat mainly seeds)
and folivores (animals that eat mainly foliage). Herbivores, as there are so many
required to pass energy from plants up through
the food chain
are more easily defined by dividing them into two groups;
This group includes the
rodents, rabbits and hares. As herbivores, they primarily eat plants, although some will
supplement their diet with insects
and dead or decaying flesh. They rely on their diet to satisfy both their food
and water needs. Some small herbivores found in the desert are the
antelope ground squirrel,
kangaroo rat, pack rat,
blacktail jack rabbit
desert cottontail. Although most mammals in this group are
antelope ground squirrel is undaunted by the desert sun. This rodent is often seen from the scenic loop drive during
the hottest parts of the day, with its white tail held close over its back as it runs about. To cool off, it may go
below ground but usually flattens its body against the soil in a shaded area and loses heat through conduction. Although
it can drop its body temperature by as much as seven degrees in this manner, it can lose 13 percent of its body moisture
per day. To make up for this water loss, it feeds on green leaves and drinks early morning dew.
named for its habit of hopping rather than running, does not drink, use dew or eat succulent
foods. Its only source of moisture comes from metabolic water, water produced through the digestion of food. However,
digestion creates very little water, so the kangaroo rat must conserve every drop. Its nasal passages are much cooler
than its internal body temperature. Air which passes through these nasal passages cools and water condenses on the
mucous membranes, where it is absorbed. The kidneys of the kangaroo rat are also very efficient, producing a urine
four to five times as concentrated as human's. Additionally, the kangaroo rat has adapted behavior to survive in
the desert. It spends the hot days underground where the temperature is 30 °F (17 °C) cooler and the humidity is
much higher. Seeds are stored in the burrow where they absorb additional moisture before being eaten.
rabbits and hares have two pair of upper incisors, one right behind the other. Thus, they are
not classified as rodents, but as Lagamorpha, literally "animals of rabbit-like form." Rabbits differ from hare
in that their young are born naked and blind, while young hares are born furred and sighted. The blacktail jack rabbit,
contrary to its name, is a hare. To escape the heat it sits in "forms" during the day. Forms are shallow depressions
near the base of plants where soil and air temperatures are cooler. Its enormous ears also provide a surface over
which heat loss can occur. The desert cottontail, a true rabbit, prefers brushier areas than the jack rabbit, such
as rocky canyons, floors of dry washes and river beds;
and catclaw thickets are preferred. Unlike
jack rabbits, it retreats into burrows to escape heat and danger. Both cottontails and jack rabbits are very
prolific. However, their numbers are kept low by
Mule deer, desert bighorn sheep and burros can also be found within the conservation area. Large herbivores
derive some moisture from their plant food but unlike the small herbivores, also need drinking water
prefers foothills with low scrub growth or thick growth along washes. By late
evening it leaves its daytime hiding place to find water in seeps and springs.
desert bighorn sheep
prefers steep, rocky terrain which provides escape from enemies and shelter from
the weather. There are more than 13,000 acres of such habitat in the conservation area. The bighorn
survives in the desert by traveling to water. It will not live more than two miles from a permanent
water source. It may expand its range after rains fill more potholes, or tinajas, but such expansions are
only temporary. The horns of the bighorn are formed by a bony structure at the base of the skull and are made
of material called keratin. It takes about ten years for a ram horn to reach full size and they are often
worn by butting and rubbing. Watch for these magnificent mammals on rocky cliffs.
compete with the bighorn for valuable water. This animal, imported by the Spanish from the Old
World, can survive well in the hottest deserts. It can lose 30 percent of its body moisture, then drink enough
to restore it in a few minutes. One burro was found to drink five gallons in 2 1/2 minutes! Unfortunately, it
crops shrubs and grasses to the roots and damages the underbrush. This destroys the food and habitat for
numerous other animals.
source - US Department of Interior
Desert Bighorn Sheep
White-tailed antelope ground squirrel
Wildlife Watching *
Successful wildlife viewing requires a few simple tricks.
to find out what they are.
The Desert Food Chain *
Everything has its niche. Who eats what, and what eats who in the desert?
to find out what more.
Desert bighorn sheep