A number of animals originating in Africa made their home here,
since this area once constituted part of the north-eastern corner of the African
A gradual process of desiccation gave rise to the formation of
the desert belt that isolated the animal population here from itís original
A prominent African representative among the mammals of the Dead
Sea area is the Rock Rabbit, a social herbivore with a daily routine. The pads
on its short toes enable it to climb nimbly in the rock fissures which are its
usual habitat. The male is territorial and defends his territory by noise, song
and battle. Towards late February and early March the Rock Rabbit, usually a
courteous creature, forces his attentions on his mate and fights off rivals.
This continues until the beginning of July, when the female gives birth.
Rock Rabbits Living in Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, by the Shore of the Dead Sea
With the drift of the continents, a way was cleared for the
entry of Asiatic animals. These replaced much of the African element which was
unable to cope with the climatic changes. Animals such as the crocodile, the
rhinoceros and the hippopotamus disappeared from the region.
A number of the African animals, however, adapted, or restricted
themselves to the zone that still provided them with the minimum possible
conditions for survival. This area covers the canyons and the oasis that ring
the Dead Sea.
An interesting African descendent still found in the area
prefers, unlike other ants here, life in the trees to life on the salty ground.
Living in nests, the Dead Sea ants capture and hold one of the regionís vermin. This
pest, sentenced for life, works in the service of these crafty ants to produce
the material from which they build their nest, a sophisticated structure in
No multi-celled organism can live in the Dead Sea, but at Ein
Fashcha, a series of springs on the northern shore, there are a variety of fish
and shell-fish which, having got as far as Ein Fashcha, became trapped by the
barrier created by the ever-increasing concentration of salt in the waters of
Here, just where a tributary enters the sea, one can find these fresh
water creatures fighting, often unsuccessfully, the battle against the bitter
end. This end comes once they are washed, with the stream, into the salty water
of the Dead Sea.
The Asiatic migrants settled throughout the region, each
choosing itís terrain according to itís nature. The light-footed fleet gazelle
moved to the open plains. The ibex on the other hand, is a very agile
climber and feels most comfortable on cliffs, which also complete itís
camouflage. Here it finds itís food, but in contrast to the purely desert
animals, the ibex needs water at least once every few days, and therefore is
restricted to the area of the scarps and slopes near the springs.
In the winter and spring, when the young are born, the herds of
ibex move off towards the desert plateau where the female gives birth. Although
blessed with an almost perfect camouflage, the ibex was nearly wiped out by man,
who hunted it for itís impressive horns and tasty meat. Fortunately, with laws
and close control, this danger has passed and the animal has been increasing in
numbers for several years.
Desert life poses two problems: excessive heat and insufficient
water. The birds and wildlife in such regions overcome these in several ways:
Some rodents, as well as carnivores, have developed a form of
adaptation by making do with the liquid contained in their solid food.
Others, such as reptiles, preserve water either by an impermeable
body covering, which prevents water loss through the skin, or by eliminating
waste in the form of crystalline acid. To avoid excess heat absorption, many
shelter from the sun in rock crevices and burrows, which also contain greater
humidity. Some of the Dead Sea wildlife simply prefer to emerge only at night.
The camel, a domesticated animal, is
notable (unlike the cow)
for being successful in the desert. In difficult conditions the camel urinates
only one half to three quarters of a liter of fluid a day and its stool contains only 30-35% water. Its large body heats up slowly,
with almost an entire day passing before its body temperature reaches its
maximum of 40.5 degrees. It begins to sweat relatively late in the day and water
loss is small.
A camel which has done no work is able to live off ordinary dry
food at a temperature of 34-40 degrees for up to 17 days without drinking, while
if the food is juicy it needs no water at all. It is not surprising, therefore,
that the camel has become the most important animal of the desert dweller.
|In the region of the Dead Sea, as in the other deserts in the
middle east, many kinds of invertebrates live, the most common being the white
snail. The color of this snail's shell reflects the sunrays and protects it from drying
up. The snail lives in areas of scarce rainfall, and for most days of the year
it is inactive. Only when it rains and the air and earth are damp, does the
snail peer out of its shell and attend to its needs by feeding on single-celled
algae that grow on the uppermost layer of the ground.
Snails on the hills beside the Dead Sea
The birds, like the reptiles, preserve their body fluids by
voiding solid urine and by the absence of sweat glands in their skin. But these,
as distinct from the reptiles, have a more or less constant body temperature,
with a difference of about 3 degrees between day and night.
Little Bee-Eater beside the Dead Sea - Indigenous to the Area
Most desert birds do
not usually have a source of drinking water, and they make do with fluids in the
solid food they eat; however, even those able to live in the desert without
drinking water are more numerous in the neighborhood of springs, since the
possibility of drinking makes their desert life easier.
Spectacled Bulbul - Resident of the Dead Sea Region
Tristram's starling - Indigenous to the Dead Sea Region
Despite itís barren regions, the Dead Sea Rift serves as a
migration path for nomadic birds, predators and others, that fly between Africa
and northern Europe. They glide on the air currents in the mountain corridors,
and some of them, misled by the blue color so reminiscent of the sweet water
lakes in the far north, come to rest on the Dead Sea, there to drink their last.
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