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Biotic Communities

of Arizona

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Chihuahuan Desertscrub

The vegetation of a small portion of southeastern Arizona near the Gila River and to the south is classified as Chihuahuan desertscrub. Monsoonal rains and very warm temperatures are common in the summer, while fairly cold temperatures in winter can be expected. Shrubs dominate this community, and cacti are not nearly as common as in other desertscrub communities found in the state. One of the more distinguishing features of parts of the Chihuahuan desert are the very large yucca, which grow among grasses or scattered shrubs.

An interesting inhabitant of this desert community is the greater roadrunner. This "ostrich of the desert" is unlike most desert birds, which escape the heat by their small size, nocturnal behavior, or higher flight patterns (there they can find cooler air). The roadrunner is large and active even in midday, chasing lizards, scorpions, mice, or other prey along the ground at speeds up to 15 mph. The bird nests in the staghorn cholla, whose sharp spines deter predators.

Pocket gophers and mice are the most common small mammals found in the Chihuahuan desert. Desert cottontail, desert bighorn sheep, and pronghorn also live in this community. Common birds include the scaled quail, which is characteristic of the community, mourning dove, roadrunner, and the cactus wren. Numerous lizards, whiptails, rattlesnakes, and the Texas banded gecko are among the reptilian residents.

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