The Gobi desert is an extremely rugged environment, with temperature extremes ranging from minus-40 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. The area receives less than 8 inches of rain a year, and has a population density of fewer than 3 people for every square mile of harsh terrain. However, this brutal region still hosts a wide variety of animals, illustrating that life can adapt to even some of the worst conditions on the planet.
The smallest animal species living in the Gobi is known as the jerboa. These small rodents are built almost like kangaroos, with powerful hind legs allowing them to leap as much as 10 feet at a time. They also have a long tail like a kangaroo that helps them maintain their balance as they hop across the rocky landscape.
Jerboas have an enemy, though: Golden eagles. These birds of prey can reach weights of 13 lbs on a diet of jerboa, living for almost 18 years in the wild. Some of the nomadic residents of the Gobi have even trained golden eagles to hunt for them.
Another animal species that makes the Gobi desert its home is the snow leopard. They used to roam across the cold Gobi in great numbers, but as the human population of the area has grown their numbers have dwindled. Snow leopards are now on the Endangered Species list, with only as many as 1,700 individual leopards remaining in the wild.
The Gobi desert is also home to the Gobi bear, one of the most seriously endangered species on Earth. Human encroachment on their home territory has reduced to the number of surviving Gobi bears to an estimated 50 surviving individuals. They may yet live on, however, as new feeding programs and protected areas have been initiated to raise their numbers to more sustainable levels in the future.
These are only a few of the species that call the Gobi their home. Many other animals that live in the Gobi desert, like camels, wolves, musk ox, and ibex, are also found in other parts of the world. The climate and terrain may be extreme, but animal life continues to find a way to survive. In the distant past, when the climate was different, the area of the Gobi Desert was home to a vast number of animals. Today it is rich and diverse source of fossils for paleantologists.