The Namib Desert5/13/96Period 6The Namib Desert is a parched and rippled desert, an endless expanse.It stretches along the wouthwest coast of Africa from Angola in the north,through Namibia, into South Africa.

The name Namib means emptiness. About1,700 km (1,060 mi long and 100 km (60 mi) wide, the desert is bordered on thewest by the Atlantic Ocean. The Namib has an approximate area of 170,000 sq km(65,640 sq mi). It rises from sea level 914 m (3,000 ft). Temperatures average16 deg C (60 deg F).

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Sands, varying from yellow to red in color, form dunesreaching 240 m (800 ft) in height. The annual rainfall averages only 25 mm (1in), but high humidity results in fog and dew. In the north deeep canyons havebeen cut by streams.

The area’s main rivers, the Orange and the Cunene, followthe southern and northern borders, respectively, of Namibia. One river, theQueeseb, is made of water collected from over 160 km (100 mi) inward. TheQueeseb causes water holes, for which many organisms rely on for water besidesthe actual river itself. Acacia trees grow along the rivers, and short grassesand succulents thrive everywhere. One of the most important animals of the areais the baboon. The baboons excavate for underground water that many otheranimals depend on.

There are many other animals that have adapted to live inthe Namib desert farther away from the rivers and streams including 45 speciesof lizards and more than 200 species of beetles. The nocturnal gecko, like manyother animals, burrows in the sand to escape the days heat, 77 deg C (170 deg F).The palmado gecko drinks the moisture that forms on its own body from the fogand dew, as does the sidewinder snake. The sidewinder has adapted a special wayof moving in the loose sand which gives it its name. The backflip spider uses amixture of sand and silk to create shade to keep it cool.

Some beetles extractmoisture from trenches made in dunes. Much of this knowledge about the animalsof the Namib desert is made possible by a research institute in the desert thatwas established in 1963. The Namib desert is a harsh biome to live in, butorganisms have still adapted to life there and formed their own uniqueecosystems.

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