Savannas are grasslands existing primarily in tropical regions. They are characterized by short wet seasons with heavy rains and long, hot dry seasons. Beyond grasses, vegetation is sparse in a savanna and consists primarily of shrubs and small trees specially adapted to the warm, dry climate. Despite this, some savannas are rich with a wide diversity of animal life.
The best known and largest savanna is the African savanna. It contains many of the world's best known creatures. The mammals of the African savanna include the African elephant and African lion, the cheetah, giraffe, meerkat, giant elephant shrew, dama gazelle, kori bustard, naked mole-rat, Grevy's zebra, dwarf mongoose, lemur, Nile and pygmy hippopotamus, marabou stork, scimitar-horned oryx and rock hyrax. It also is home to a number of reptiles, including the leopard tortoise, African helmeted turtle, eastern tiger snake, cape file snake, stripe bellied sandsnake, giant painted lizard and striped mabuya. The most notable and widespread insects of the savanna are ants and termites.
The South American savanna is much smaller than the African version, covering about 150,000 square miles in the northeastern part of the continent. Because the area is smaller in size, a wide variety of animals may wander into and out out the savanna or live there part time. Among the regular residents of the South American savanna are capybara and marsh deer, the white-bellied spider monkey, the black-bellied tree duck, the tamandua, white-faced tree duck, roseate spoonbill, and orinoco piculet. The South American savanna is also the breeding ground of the giant anaconda.
Many of the plant and animal species of the savanna of northern Australia are found nowhere else on the earth. A variety of bats make up about one third of all the animals in the region; another fifth are rodents. The rest of the mammals in this region are the marsupials for which Australia is best known. These include possums, wallabies, bandicoots, dasyurids and kangaroos. The Australian savannah is also home to the flying fox, the estuarine crocodile, and many species of birds, reptiles, and invertebrates. Like the African savanna, the Australian is home to large termite mounds that dominate the landscape in certain areas.
The Terai-Duar savannas cover 14,000 square miles in southern India and are home to three bird species unique to the Indian savannah. They are the spiny babbler, the grey-crowned prinia and the manipur bush-quail. Other birds in the area include the egret, v.banded bay cuckoo, red-breasted flycatcher and coppersmith barbet. It is also the home of leopards, Indian elephants, the greater one-horned rhino, barasinghas, the pygmy hog, and the gharial crocodile.
- Smithsonian National Zoological Park: African Savanna
- World Wildlife Fund: Llanos Savannas
- Savanna Explorer: Biodiversity of World Significance
- Geography of India: Terai-Duar Savanna and Grasslands in India
- World Wildlife Fund: Terai-Duar Savannas and Grasslands
- Global Environment: Biodiversity Savanna
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
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