What Are the Primary Consumers of the Southwest American Desert?

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The primary consumers of the desert are rodents, such as the antelope ground squirrel and the kangaroo rat, as well as rabbits and hares, such as the desert cottontail and blacktail jack rabbit. These mammals are herbivores, or plant eaters. They are nocturnal except for the antelope ground squirrel, who prefers daylight. He is well-adapted to the heat and eats green leaves and morning dew to replenish his body.

The kangaroo rat survives in the desert in an underground burrow where the daytime temperature is approximately 30 degrees F cooler and the air humidity is higher. He does not eat desert plant food, but instead eats plant seeds stored in his burrow.

Digital-Desert differentiates between rabbits and hares, although they are both herbivores that benefit from the food-producing plants. Rabbit young are born blind and naked, while hares are born fully furred and can see. During the heat of the day, the blacktail jack rabbit shelters in shallow troughs beneath plants, while the desert cottontail prefers a burrow.

According to Desert USA, desert plants account for 90 percent of all living things, while primary consumers represent only 10 percent. The health of plant productivity in harsh, arid deserts reflects directly on the primary consumer population, as well as the well-being of their predators.