Updated May 8, 2019 | Infoplease Staff

A desert is an area where little or no life exists because of a lack of water. Scientists estimate that about one-fifth of the earth's land surface is desert. Deserts can be found on every continent except Europe. There are two different kinds: hot and dry (such as the Arabian and Sahara deserts) and cold and dry (such as Antarctica and the Gobi desert).

In North America, there are four major deserts: the Great Basin, the Mojave, the Sonoran, and the Chihuahuan. All but the Great Basin are hot deserts located in Mexico and the southwestern part of the United States. The Great Basin covers parts of Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Utah, and is considered a cold desert.

Special features:

The lack of water and intense heat or cold make this biome inhospitable to most life forms. Most of the plants you'll see in the desert are species of cactus. You might come across yucca, aloe, octillo plants, or the tall saguaro cacti. A few animals—mainly reptiles, like snakes and lizards, and amphibians, like frogs and toads—are well adapted to the hot desert. Another famous desert animal is the camel, which can make water from the fat it stores in its hump. The Emperor and Adélie penguins are well-known animals living at the edge of the Antarctic desert.

Sources +