Extreme Zone: Desert

The desert can be a tough place to live, with rare and unpredictable rainfall and temperatures that range from freezing to scorching. But desert animals and plants have adapted to the extreme conditions. Many of them shut down or hide out during the hottest, driest times. Step into our southwestern desert, and find out how life thrives in this extreme place. This exhibit features live animals including a desert tortoise, chuckwallas, a turkey vulture, a Gila monster, honeypot ants, scorpions and more!

Exhibit Highlights

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Young boy peers inside cactus inside Ecosystems Desert Zone
Image attribution
Pete Eckert

Meet the Cactus

Find out about the special adaptations cactuses have to help them survive the heat and dryness of the desert. Cactuses can store water in their cells, swell up when they are full of water, keep water in with waxy skin and more. Large cactuses like saguaro provide homes to many desert animals, too.

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Family observing flash flood inside Desert Zone
Image attribution
Tracie Spence Photography

Flash Flood!

The desert is a dry place, but when it rains, it can pour! A summer storm can bring most of a year's rain in a single afternoon. Experience the thunderous thrill of a flash flood in our desert exhibit, where floods come every few minutes instead of just once a year.

Image
Young boy peers inside cactus inside Ecosystems Desert Zone
Image attribution
Pete Eckert

Meet the Cactus

Find out about the special adaptations cactuses have to help them survive the heat and dryness of the desert. Cactuses can store water in their cells, swell up when they are full of water, keep water in with waxy skin and more. Large cactuses like saguaro provide homes to many desert animals, too.

Image
Family observing flash flood inside Desert Zone
Image attribution
Tracie Spence Photography

Flash Flood!

The desert is a dry place, but when it rains, it can pour! A summer storm can bring most of a year's rain in a single afternoon. Experience the thunderous thrill of a flash flood in our desert exhibit, where floods come every few minutes instead of just once a year.

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