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Secret Life on Shifting Sand

The Kelso Dunes endure the turmoil of shifting
wind patterns, freezng winter temperatures, and
extremely hot and dry summers. It is difficult
to beliefe these dunes can support life.

The biological diversity of the Kelso Dunes is
actually very complex. The dunes are home to
hundreds of species of soil organisms, plants,
invertebrates, and vertebrates. Through changing
climatic periods, flora and fauna patterns
continue to evolve.

Annual wildflowrs such as the
sand verbena (Abrunia villosa)
carpet the dunes with color after
winter rains. Their seeds can lie
hidden and dormant for many years
until conditions are favorable.

At night, the desert kangaroo rat
(Dipodomys deserti) searches for
seeds that provide nutrients and
moisture for survival. It avoids the
heat of the day and conserves moisture
by retreating to its burrow.

Among the rippled sand dunes,
sidewinders (Crotalus cerastes)
are well camouflaged. Sidewinders
barely touch the dune surface as
they diagonally glide across the
loose sand.

Found only at this area, the gray
snout beetle (family Curculionidae)
avoids predators by blending in with
the gray branches of the creosote
bush. The creosote bush is the most
common shrub in the Kelso Dunes
area, providing food and shelter for
a variety of desert life.

Mojave fringed-toed lizards (Uma
scorporia) are often described as
"sand swimmers" because of their
ability to disappear under the
shifting sand. Specialized "fringes"
on their toes act like snowshoes,
allowing them to run across the
sand at great speed.

Don't miss the rest of our virtual tour of Mojave National Preserve in 2563 images.