Plan of Attack

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Desert

Saguaro Cactus
Scientific Name: Carnegiea gigantean
Habitat: desert slopes and flats
Range: Sonoran Desert
Observations: The shape and appearance of the Saguaro Cactus is easily recognizable in countless movies set in the desert. The cactus is a producer, using photosynthesis to create its energy needs. Since it doesn't have leaves, its photosynthesis takes place in the top layer of its green stem. The cactus uses a number of adaptations to survive in the dry desert conditions. They include a large root system that collects water after rain, and an expandable stem that stores the collected water.

Velvet Ant
Scientific Name: Dasymutilla occidentalis
Habitat: deserts, semi-arid environments
Range: throughout US and Canada
Observations: The Velvet Ant is actually a wasp. "Velvet Ant" is the common name for any of a family of wasps whose appearance is similar to that of large furry ants. The wasps live primarily in deserts and hot, semiarid environments. There are thousands of species of Velvet Ants throughout the world, including nearly 500 species in North America alone. All Velvet Ants in North America are parasites. They invade the nest of bees and other wasps, then lay their eggs in the host's cocoon. As adults, the ants feed on green shrubs, cacti, and other available plants.

Cactus Wren
Scientific Name: Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus
Habitat: desert, arid scrubland
Range: Southwestern U.S.A. to central Mexico
Observations: The cactus wren lives in cacti, trees, and thorny shrubs. It is the largest wren in North America, and has an easily recognizable white stripe over each eye, as well as a long tail. The wren feeds on beetles, wasps, ants, fruit, berries, lizards, and small frogs. It can run swiftly for short distances.

Diamondback Rattlesnake
Scientific Name: Crotelus Atrox
Habitat: desert, rocky hillsides
Range: Southwestern U.S.A.: Southern California, Nevada and Utah, south to Mexico Observations: The distinctive rattle that the Rattlesnake makes to warn-off threats makes the snake easy to identify. The bite of the rattlesnake is poisonous; it injects hemotoxic venom through its fangs, which rapidly attacks the blood system of its prey, though the bite is usually not fatal to humans. A predator, the rattlesnake feeds on small mice, rats, and lizards. It uses its tongue as an olfactory organ, and is able to see in total darkness due to heat sensitive organs located in its head. An adult Diamondback is commonly five feet in length, with gray, tan, or black scales, often with a distinctive yellow, red, or green tone. Rattlesnakes are largely defensive and tend to stand their ground if provoked.

Coyote
Scientific Name: Canis latrans
Habitat: desert, rocky hillsides and valleys
Range: North America, from eastern Alaska to New England and south through Mexico to Panama. Observations: The Coyote is a member of the dog family, similar in size and shape to a medium-sized dog; its tail is round and bushy and is carried straight out, below the level of its back. Desert Coyotes are found in low deserts and valleys. They weigh about 20 pounds, less than half of mountain coyotes. Desert Coyotes are light gray or tan with a black-tipped tail. The Coyote is one of the most adaptable animals in the world, and can change its breeding habits, diet and social dynamics to survive in a wide variety of habitats. They maintain their territories by marking them with urine, either alone or in packs. They use their distinctive calls to defend their territory, as well as to strengthen social bonds and communicate.

Tropical Rain Forest

Whirligig Beetle
Family: Gyrinus sp.
Habitat: Tropical environments, freshwater lakes, ponds
Range: North American and African continents
Observations: Whirligig beetles received their name from their tendency to move rapidly in small circles on the surface of the water. This apparent dance - or gig - is just one of the distinctive...
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