Plant and animal adaptations in the desert

As you can see from the climate graph for Kuwait, plants and animals in the desert have to cope with very little water. There is also a big variation in temperature between day and night - the diural range. Many life forms have special adaptations to cope with this.

Climate graph of KuwaitClimate graph of Kuwait

How plants adapt to arid conditions

Eg cactus plants:

Diagram showing key parts of a cactus
  • thick, waxy skin to reduce loss of water and to reflect heat
  • large, fleshy stems to store water
  • thorns and thin, spiky or glossy leaves to reduce water loss
  • spikes protect cacti from animals wishing to use stored water
  • deep roots to tap groundwater
  • long shallow roots which spread over a wide area
  • plants lie dormant for years until rain falls

How animals adapt to extremely arid conditions

Eg camels:

Diagram showing why camels are well suited to hot climates
  • long eye lashes, hairy ears and closing nostrils help to keep out sand
  • thick eyebrows which stand out and shade eyes from the sun
  • wide feet so they don't sink in the sand
  • they can go without water for over a week because they can drink gallons in one go
  • they can go months without food - they store fat in their humps
  • body temperature can change to avoid losing water through sweating
  • they are well camouflaged
  • thick fur helps to keep them warm at night