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Awesome Adaptations

Colorado Life Zones: Seasons, Plants, & Animals

Step 1: Choose One of the Life Zones or Choices Below

Life Zones Menu Bar
Colorado Life Zones General Information Interactive Elevation & Life Zone Diagram Colorado Maps: Life Zones and More Semidesert Shrublands (West CO) Shortgrass Plains Life Zone (East CO) Foothills Woodlands & Shrublands Montane Forests Life Zone Subalpine Life Zone Alpine Life Zone Riparian Life Zones

Semidesert Shrublands Life Zone: Seasons, Plants, & Animals

Step 2: Choose a Topic from the Semidesert Shrublands Life Zone & Scroll Down

Semidesert Plants
General Information

Semidesert Shrublands Through the Seasons
Through the Seasons

Semidesert Canyonlands and Shrublands
Canyonlands and Shrublands

Semidesert Shrublands Awesome Adaptations
Awesome Adaptations

Semidesert Shrublands Plants and Trees
Plants and Trees

Semidesert Shrublands Mammals

Semidesert Shrublands Birds

Semidesert Shrublands Reptiles and Amphibians
Reptiles & Amphibians

Semidesert Shrublands: Awesome Adaptations

Colorado and the Rocky Mountains have many different plants and animals that have made awesome adaptations to live in the different life zones. Here are just a few.

Canyon Treefrog
Canyon Treefrog

Burrowing Owls
Burrowing Owl

Ringtail Cat
Ringtail Cat

Lichen on a rock
Lichen and Cryptogamic Soil

Awesome Adaptations: Canyon Treefrog

Amphibians like the Canyon Treefrog and some other toads perform an amazing task to stay alive in the dry semidesert shrublands. They hide underground most of the year in an underground burrow in a trance like state. When they sense the large summer thunderstorm's rain, they wake up, climb up, quickly mate, lay eggs in the newly formed pools of water, and eat the abundant insects. The eggs change quickly to tadpoles and then toads or frogs before the pools of water disappear. A canyon treefrog's best defense is to stay totally still. Its skin can blend so well into its environment that it could be a couple of feet away and you would never see it. Just a few weeks after they come up, they may dig themselves back into the ground waiting for the next big summer thunderstorm, which may be a day, week, month, or possibly a year or two later. Imagine not eating for a whole year or two, wow!! That is one advantage of being cold-blooded.

Sources of information and to find more information: CO Div of Wildlife, CO Herp. Society, CSU NDIS,Utah Div of Wildlife, eNature

Canyon Treefrog Canyon Treefrog
Awesome Adaptations: Burrowing Owl

Burrowing owls are one of the most interesting owls on the planet. Most other owls like to stay in trees, barns, and other other tall places. But, the burrowing owl chooses to live most of its life on and in the ground. Burrowing owls live by prairie dog colonies. The prairie dogs dig large networks of tunnels underground and the owl comes and hunts in them. The owls also eat lizards, snakes, insects, mice, and other small animals that live in the tunnels. When it chooses to sleep, the owl crawls into the prairie dog tunnels and falls asleep underground. The whole idea of an owl that lives underground makes the burrowing owl one of the most amazing birds.

The future population of the burrowing owls depend on the future populations of prairie dogs. Prairie dogs have been known to carry the plague and other nasty diseases. Some ranchers and farmers do not like prairie dogs because the believe that horses and cows can really hurt their legs stepping in a prairie dog hole. The prairie dogs can eat the farmer's crop, destroy the root systems of the crops, and mess up irrigation systems. Some farmers and ranchers shoot and poisen the prairie dogs. The poisened meat is than eaten by the owls, hawks, coyotes, or other animal and the poisen finds a new victim. So remember just because some people do not like one animal in the food chain does not mean we should get rid all of them. The loss of the prairie dogs would kill out many other animals like burrowing owls and black-footed ferrets.

Sources of information and to find more information: Peregrine Fund, CO Div of Wildlife, Hogle Zoo

Burrowing Owls Burrowing Owl
Awesome Adaptations: Ringtail Cat

One of the least known animals that lives in the southern and western Colorado is the ringtail cat. A ringtail cat is really not part of the cat family. Its closest relative in North America is the raccoon. It got its name because it is about the size of a small house cat and has a long black and white ringed bushy tail. The ringtail cat is an amazing climber. It can easily climb up steep cliffs and trees. The ringtail can can turn its back feet around 180 degrees and use its tail for balance while climbing. It mainly eats small creatures like insects, mice, packrats, rabbits, birds, lizards, and frogs. However, it can also eat fruit. If it feels in danger the ringtail can make a stinky odor to scare away predators. Ringtail cats are nocturnal, meaning they only come out at night. The ringtail's eyes are very sensitive to light and it can see very well at night. When people see this secretive nocturnal animal for the very first time, they ask themselves, "is it some wierd house cat? Is it a raccoon?" No it's the ringtail cat.

Sources of information and to find more information: CO Div of Wildlife, Southwest Wildlife, Oregon Zoo

Ringtail Cat Ringtail Cat
Awesome Adaptations: Lichen & Cryptogamic Soil

One of the least known and overlooked types of plant life in the semidesert shrublands are lichen and cryptogamic soil. Yet they play an important part of the semidesert shrublands. Lichen is is the layer of crusty yellow, red, orange, and green fungi and cyanobacteria found on rocks. Cryptogamic soil is formed by layers of cyanobacteria, lichen, mosses, and fungi. Cryptogamic soil looks different than the red or tan desert soil. It is often black or greenish and feels crunchy when it is stepped on. Cryptogamic soil and lichen need very little water to survive and can live well in the dry hot climate. They are important because they help stop erosion. This is very important for all the other plants and animals that eat the plants because it helps keep the fertile soil in place during the strong summer rainstorms and wind storms. They also add nitrogen to the soil, and nitrogen is a very important nutrient for plants. Cryptogamic soil and lichen grow very slowly.

Lichen and cryptogamic soil are so often overlooked that many people destroy them without even knowing their important roles. Many people see the desert and think that it does not have that much life. So people ride their ATV, ride their dirt bikes or mountain bikes, overgraze an area with sheep or cattle, hike, or do other outdoor activities where ever they wish. Often times they end up killing large areas of lichen and crypotgamic soil. Which in turn allows large summer rainstorms and wind storms to erode away large amounts of soil and create even more dangerous flash floods. It also erodes way important nitrogen and other nutrients that other plants need to grow; so there may be fewer other desert plants able to grow and less food for many animals. So next time you are in the semidesert look around and you may find much more life than you may expect. Try to stay on the trail and ride your ATVs, dirt bikes, and mountain bikes in designated areas.

Sources of information and to find more information: NPS Canyonlands, Bird & Hike LV , Enviroscience

Lichen Cryptogamic soil
Lichen on a rock Cryptogamic soil
Awesome Adaptations: Eastern Collared Lizard

The collared lizard is one amazing lizard. The eastern collared lizard has beautiful spotted bright green and yellow skin. It has black collars around its neck and a yellowish head. When the lizard gets stressed its skin on its head turns orangish-red. When a predator or human tries to catch it, the lizard is not afraid to bite and the bite is strong for the lizard's size. Yet, most of the time it will choose to run away. The collared lizard can run using its back legs only making it look like it can run standing up. The lizard can jump large distances also. Like other lizards when grabbed by the tail, it may loses its tail and regrow a new one. If that is not enough, the collared lizard will eat most any animal that can fit in its mouth, like other lizards, insects, baby mice, and other small creatures. The bright green collared lizard may be easy to spot on the reddish sandstone rocks, but its athletic ability and attitude make it one fascinating lizard.

Sources of information and to find more information: CO Div of Wildlife, CO Herp Society, Utah Div of Wildlife, eNature

Collared Lizard CO_Rep_Amph_Collared_Lizard6
Collared Lizards Collared Lizard