Plants & Wildlife of the Tropical Savanna Biome

Intro
Zebras live in eastern African savannas.
Zebras live in eastern African savannas. (Photo: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Tropical savannas are grasslands found in Brazil, central and eastern Africa, India, southeast Asia and Australia. Their landscape is usually composed of tall grasses with small patches of isolated trees. These biomes are usually neighbors to tropical forests and experience wet and dry seasons. Due to soil conditions, natural disasters and human or animal activity, tropical savannas do not accommodate dense pockets of forest and their flora and fauna is distinctive from their wooded counterparts.

Herbivores

Herbivores
Herbivores (Photo: Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Herbivores, or plant eaters, benefit from the vegetation that grows in the tropical savanna biome. The herbivores that live in one region of the world differ from those that live in a savanna of a different geographic locale. For example, in Africa, gazelles, zebras, elephants, rhinos, warthogs, wildebeest and other herbivores live in savannas. The Llanos savanna in South America is flooded each year by the Orinoco river. As a result, semi-aquatic capybaras, which are large rodents, and marsh deer spend some of their time in this tropical grassland area. Marsupials, animals that have pouches to carry their young, live in Australian savannas. Examples include kangaroos, echidnas, wallabies, walaroos and koalas, although echidnas mostly eat insects and not plants.

Carnivores

Carnivores
Carnivores (Photo: Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Carnivores, or meat eaters, gain nourishment from capturing herbivores lower on the food chain. Examples of carnivores living in African savannas are lions, leopards, cheetahs, servals (medium-sized wild cats), jackals and hyenas. Birds of prey, such as hawks, vultures and buzzards, spend time soaring above most savannas around the world since it is easy for them to observe their future victims in the open landscapes. Termites are not technically carnivores. They are detritivores who feed on and decompose dead plants and animals, but they are found in most tropical savannas.

Trees

Trees
Trees (Photo: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

What distinguishes a prairie biome from a savanna is that savannas have trees growing sporadically throughout the landscape, whereas prairies do not. In African savannas, acacias and baobabs are the most common trees. Both species have evolved to be tolerant of drought periods. Baobabs have small leaves to limit water loss during photosynthesis. They also store water in their trunks. Acacias have deep roots that can absorb water at great depths. They also have thorns and a symbiotic relationship with stinging ants to protect themselves from being overeaten by herbivores. Eucalyptus is the most common type of tree in Australian savannas. Australians benefit from these trees for timber, medicinal and oil production.

Grasses

Grasses
Grasses (Photo: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Grasses are the main type of flora in tropical savannas. If grasses are overgrazed, completely burnt or extensively farmed, the biome becomes a desert. According to the Center for Educational Technologies, some of these grasses grow up to 9 feet tall. Examples of grass species in the Carpentaria savanna of Australia are Sorghum species, which are tall grasses, bluegrass and hummock grass. Cats tails, common finger grass, spear grass, yellow thatching grass and others are found in the savanna region of the Pilanesberg National Park in South Africa.

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