Why Are Many Desert Animals Nocturnal?

Most desert animals are nocturnal because it allows them to avoid extreme heat during the day. Some predators are nocturnal because their prey is active at night.

Small burrowing mammals, such as mice, stay underground during the hottest part of the day. This allows them to avoid burning their feet on the hot sand or rock and to avoid the harsh sunlight. When they leave their burrows at dusk, they attract predators, such as snakes. Most desert reptiles, such as rattlesnakes, are crepuscular, which means they are active at dawn and dusk. This allows them to hunt the rodents that become active at night. Some of these reptiles do not always avoid the sun because they need the heat to help regulate their body temperatures. However, during the day, they are generally sluggish and prefer to bask on rocks rather than hunt or travel.

The majority of desert birds are nocturnal. Owls come out at night to hunt nocturnal rodents and reptiles. Some birds are active throughout the day but hunt mostly at night and try to avoid the sun during the day. Amphibians, such as toads, burrow into the sand during the day, going deep enough to find coolness. They hunt insects that come out after dark.