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The Living Edens
 
a picture of a snake at dawn in the Namib desert
There are no minutes in Namib more important than the minutes that comprise the dawn. In the time that night fades and the sun creeps toward the horizon, warm air from the Atlantic Ocean sweeps over the cold waters of the Benguela current. This combination of opposites creates thick coastal fogs that can penetrate as far as 60 miles inland.

These fogs and the fresh water they contain are the life essence of the Namib. Moisture condenses on desert grasses and on the bodies of smaller creatures. These sparse drops of dew must sustain many of these animals until the next day, when dawn returns.

a picture of the long-legged beetleTenebrionid/Long Legged Beetle
Uniquely adapted to the use of fog, the long legged beetle climbs to the crest of a dune and collects water by facing the wind and raising its body to intercept the fog. This behavior is called "head standing" or "fog-basking." Once the fog condenses into droplets of dew, it trickles down the beetle's back toward the mouth. In just one morning, the amount of water a beetle consumes in this way is equivalent to 40 percent of its original body weight.

The Long Legged Beetle lives only in the fog zone, on the western part of the Namib dunes. During the day, the beetle forages on the sandy surface and stays cool by running -- creating its own wind or burrowing in the sand away from the hot surface. Alternately, when the sun sets in the evening and the temperature drops, the beetle will burrow into the sand to escape the cold.

a picture of the sidewinderSidewinder
Also known as Peringuey's adder, the sidewinder snake reduces contact with the hot sand by its peculiar side-to-side form of locomotion. Early in the morning, the sidewinder coils up in the fog and licks water droplets off its body. As the day progresses, the heat of the sun loosens the sand and makes it harder for the sidewinder to move, but easier for it to conceal itself in the sand to ambush its prey. Only the snakes' eyes, which stick out from the top of its head, remain above the sand. The rest of the body is completely concealed.

a picture of the Namaqua ChameleonNamaqua Chameleon
A cold blooded creature, the chameleon uses the sun to warm its body. Changing color in response to variations in light or temperature, the chameleon's body darkens to absorb more heat from the sun's rays and lightens to cool off. The color is controlled by the chameleon's hormones, which affect pigments in the skin. On windy days, it regulates its temperature by digging a groove in the sand to reduce heat loss by convection.

Late in the afternoon, when the sun begins to set and the temperature drops, the chameleon will dig a deeper groove in order to get every last bit of warmth. Once evening arrives, it will burrow to avoid the cold temperatures, wind, fog and predators.

Depending on the speed and stealth required to evade predators, the namaqua chameleon can attain speeds up to three miles per hour.

a picture of the dune antDune Ant
At dawn, dune ants can be found sipping dew that has condensed on blades of grass from the fog. In order to limit water loss, they breath in short rapid bursts. Dune ants navigate by the angle of the sun and build their colonies in the soft sand under the grasses. Colonies with several thousand ants are common, and all nest areas are fiercely defended.

a picture of a desert cricket snacking on a leafDesert Cricket
Desert crickets, like dune ants, also drink the moisture that condenses on blades of grass early in the morning. Feathery feet make it easier for the cricket to walk on loose sand, and their long legs raise their bodies off the sand, where even a lift of one-third of an inch could be 30 degrees cooler. During the hottest part of the day, when the sun is unbearable, the cricket seeks shelter at the tops of desert grasses, where the wind blows more strongly.
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