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DESERT LIFE

The Namib Desert with its unique weather patterns and landscapes, is a geological wonder that provides a unique habitat for a large variety of endemic animal and plant species. Below is a list of some unique desert species that can be viewed on our tour, including some fun facts about each.

Namib Dune Gecko

(Pachydactylus rangei)

This endemic gecko is also known as the Palmato gecko or web-footed gecko, and can be found throughout the Namib Desert, especially on the compacted wind side of the coastal dunes. They are nocturnal and have large eyes without eyelids, which they use for spotting the prey they hunt. Since they do not have eyelids, they will occasionally clean their eyes by licking them with their long tongue.

Web feet act as sand shoes - the equivalent of snow shoes. These feet provide traction on the soft sand and can be used to dig out prey from under the sand and create burrows to live in.They come in a variety of colors and patterns with an almost transparent skin where visible blood vessels can be seen beneath the skin.

 

They collect their water needs from what they eat; a diet consisting of various insects such as crickets, spiders, beetles, termites, and beetle larvae. In times of drought they will allow fog to condense on their large eyes during the night and lick the condensed drops of water off with their long tongues.

Shovel-Snouted Lizard

(Meroles anchietae)

The shovel snouted lizard is endemic to the Namib and moves by day (diurnal). It is mostly observed moving along the leeward side of the dune, which is also known as the slip face of the dune, searching for food to eat.

 

When threatened by predators, it will dive into the soft dune sand, thus earning another common name: the sand diving lizard. During the heat of the day, when the sand gets very hot, this lizard can be found dancing on the hot surface of the dune in order to keep its feet cool.

It achieves this cooling process by holding two feet in the air at a time and then alternating its feet. By repeating this process it keeps its feet cool, thus minimizing the heat transferred from the sand to the body, therefore also known as the thermal dancing lizard.

 

It is a fast moving lizard that catches insects by running them down at high speed and even takes moths and flying insects directly out of the air. They normally lay one egg at a time with an exception of two eggs. They can lay eggs up to four times a year.

Sidewinder Snake

(Bitis Perinqueyi)

This endemic dwarf adder is one of the smallest adders in the world reaching a average length of 25cm and a maximum of approximately35cm.

It has eyes on top of the head, which allows the snake to burrow under the sand and still keep its eyes out surveying the surrounding area for prey.

These snakes mostly have a black insect, wormlike tail which they wiggle on the surface of the sand to attract prey while waiting in ambush under the sand.

 

They move in a lovely side winding fashion, which allows them to move along the slip face of dunes where the sand is loose. Side winding also keeps most of the body off the sand at any given moment and allows the snake to move over hot sand without overheating.

This adder is Viviparous (gives birth to live young); three to 10 young are born in late summer

 

They are front fanged and have Cytotoxic venom. Although not deadly they can inflict a nasty and extremely painful bite which should be treated.

Cartwheeling Spider

(Carparachne aureoflava)

The Dancing white lady gets its name from the manner in which it throws its legs into the air when threatened by predators.


The white lady is also commonly known as the cartwheeling spider because of its cartwheeling tactics where it curls up into a ball and rolls down the dunes at 44 revolutions per second to escape predators.

This large desert spider makes a burrow out of silk in the slip face of a dune which it closes with a little silk trap door.

This spider can be encountered by night, mostly on the slip face of the dune while hunting insects. If threatened by enemies such as geckos then it dives off the steep slip face and curls into a ball and rolls down the dune at 44 roles per second, this is faster than any of its predators can run. Once the rolling has ended at the bottom of the dune it stands with 4 legs in the air jumping around in defense should any other predators be present. Has large fangs and can inflict a painful bite with mild venom.

Namaqua Chameleon

(Chamaeleo namaquensis)

The Namaqua Chameleon, which is a terrestial ground dwelling chameleon, is found throughout the Namib Desert.

This is a large short tailed chameleon that spends most of its life on the ground hunting for insects and occassionally eating some vegetation to supplement its diet.

They reach a length of up to 30cm and are one of the fastest moving chameleons in the world relative to other chameleons, and often seen chasing its prey down.

Prey is caught with a long tongue measuring around 30cm in length

 

Chameleons change colour for camoflage, to regulate heat and according to mood.

 

Their eyes can see independently with each eye covering a range of 180 degrees, therefore enabling it to see 360 degrees without turning its head.

They lay between 10 and 20 eggs in a clutch with a gestation perion of about 6 weeks in the body and they hatch after about 3 months after the eggs are laid.

Black Scorpion

(Parabuthus villosus)

This large hairy tailed scorpion can reach a length of 20cm . While most scorpions are nocturnal, this impressive looking scorpion can often be found hunting prey during the day.
It belongs to the family Buthidae which is very venomous.

Scorpions with thick tails and small pincers should be regarded as very dangerouss and rely on their venom to kill their prey.

 

Their prey consists of insects, spiders and even small reptiles. 

Reticulated Desert Lizard

(Meroles reticulates)

This desert adapted lizard has a long point nose and is commonly seen hunting for insects on the dunes and gravel plains of the coastal Namib desert from central to Northern Namibia.

It has a pointed nose and is a speckled gray - blue in coloration.

Birds and snakes are their main enemy and when threatened they quickly dive into the soft dune sand where they burrow to escape their predators.

this lizard lays on average of 4 eggs once a year.

Fitzsimon’s Burrowing Skink

(Typlacontias brevipes)

This legless burrowing lizard, which resembles a small snake, has a shining appearance which is due to the reflection from waxy specially adapted scales which allow the lizard to move through the sand with very little friction.

It spends most of its life below the surface of loose sand such of the slip face of dunes and the loose sand around shrubs in the desert.

Its food, which comprises of small insects, which it detects mostly by feeling for vibrations which is made by its prey.

Tenebrionid Beetles

(Tok Tokkies)

A large variety of Tok Tokkies inhabit Namibia numbering close onto 200 species.

They come in all shapes, sizes and guises.

The most common Tok Tokkie found in the dunes is the Fog Basking beetle (Onymacris unguicularis).

These beetles including many others have a peculiar way of collecting drinking water from the fog. They can be found doing a headstand in the early morning allowing the fog to condense on their backs and then run down towards their mouths where they can then drink up to 40% of their body mass in one morning.

 

Another strange Tokkie is the button beetle or trench-digging beetle (Lepidochora discoidalis), which digs a fog trench into the side of the dune. Condesed water is trapped on the edges of the escavated trench, where it is then licked up by the beetle

 The tenebrionid beetles live on wind blown plant material known as detritus or beetle muesli, which gets blown down the lee side of the dunes, by wind.

Namib Sand Snake

(Psammophis Namibensis)

This fast moving long slender snake can often be found during the day moving across the dunes hunting for reptiles such as lizards and small rodents such as mice.

The Namib sand snake is back fanged with a mild venom that is harmless to humans.

When disturbed it will quickly seek refuge in a bush or nearest burrow it can find.

They average about 1m in length but can grow to a length of 1.4m

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