Sonoran Desert

Sonoran Desert, Arizona. Saguaro cactus pictured in the front.

The Sonoran Desert is located in the American Southwest and Northern Mexico. It averages 3-16in rain annually. Millions of years ago (Paleozoic Era) the Sonoran Desert was flooded by shallow seas. Marine shellfish inhabited the sea, and as it dried up, their shells helped created limestone, which was eventually lifted up to form caverns. Fossilized shells remain in these caverns today, giving us a glimpse into the past.

The desert is full of fun plants like cacti. Their spines provide shade, reduce water loss, and prevent them from being eaten. So while they hurt us the spines are actually very helpful to the cacti.

Mexican Grey Wolves also inhabit the Sonoran Desert. They eat elk, deer, and moose (but not in the SW). Wolves typically eat 20-30 lbs of meat in one meal. They hunt within territories and lead by alphas (mom and dad). The reintroduction of Grey wolves into Yellowstone National Park has been very successful in restoring biodiversity and ecosystem health.

Mountain lions are the biggest cat in North America and their ranges is the largest of any wild mammal in the Western hemisphere. Basically they are just very charismatic, cool, and frightening.

Rattlesnakes are venomous snakes that are famous to the Southwest. They are known for the rattle at the end of their tail. Rattlesnakes have heat sensing pits that can detect thermal radiation from other living organisms.

Gila Monster (pronounced “heela”) is the largest lizard in the United States (~22cm). It’s also venomous. Yikes. Males initiate courtship through flicking their tongue to detect female scent. Double yikes.

Road runners are extremely fast ground birds are are found all over Southern Arizona. They have been recorded to run as fast as 20mph. WOW! Perhaps the coyote never really caught the roadrunner.