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Biotic Communities

of Arizona

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Great Basin Desertscrub

This desert community is unlike others found in Arizona (Sonoran, Mohave, etc.) in that most of the species are well-adapted to cold temperatures and there are few cacti within the community. The desert landscape consists mostly of scattered low shrubs. Sagebrush and shadscale dominate, with blackbrush, greasewood, and rabbitbrush common in some areas.

Coyote and black-tailed jackrabbits are common, and in some areas pronghorn wander the open sage-covered country. A few bird species are intimately associated with sagebrush including the sage thrasher and sage sparrow. Because of the long cold winters, reptiles are not as prevalent in this desert, although a few lizards, toads, and snakes live among the shrubs and grasses of the community.

The striking sage grouse is an important inhabitant of sagebrush dominated scrublands. It feeds on the evergreen leaves of the shrub throughout the year, and uses it for protection from the wind, snow, and extreme sun common in this habitat.

Pronghorn inhabit the sagebrush communities of the Great Basin (as well as grasslands in other parts of the state) feeding on these small shrubs. To evade predators in this typically wide-open habitat, they have evolved very good eyesight and tremendous speed. The agile pronghorn can run from 30 to 40 mph for over 7 miles a time, and can leap 20 feet in one jump. Animals have been clocked at speeds of 60 mph for short bursts! The coat of the pronghorn consists of hollow-cored hairs that offer excellent insulation from the cold temperatures and strong winds common in much of their habitat during the winter months.

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