In African savanna grass grows fast up during the four months of hot, wet weather. This is followed by a long dry spell. The typical climate and the tall grass help foster a huge insect population. Their mounds in turn serves as a good manure. Termites, locusts, flies, mantis comprise the insect population. These apart lizards and snakes, rodents and small mammals also infest these lands.
The most noticeable mammals here are the large grazing and browsing hoofed mammals or ungulates. Most of the large animals are visitors to these grasslands. These include the families of preying lions and browsing tuskers among others. Huge herds of zebras, antelopes and wanderbeasts also migrate across the plains to find food in the dry season.
Zebras eat tall, fibrous grasses. Antelopes are cud chewing mammals with bony horns. They are of different types like the eland, the springbok, the hartebeests and the gnu. And each kind prefers a scefic type of vegetation. The big antelope called gnu or wildebeest prefers shorter kinds. The hartebeests like dry stalks, while gazelles go for low grasses.
Giraffes with their tall neck can crop leaves out of reach of all.They also live in herds, usually at the edge where grassland meets the thick forest belt. Elephants, the largest of all land animals, prefer the bark and leaves of better wooded areas. However, they also feed on tall grass. They roam in herds from one place to another. An adult bull may weigh over 6 tons
and eats up to 300 kg of food a day. Among the hunters and scavengers, hunting dogs and hyenas chase in packs, to wear down and kill prey much larger than themselves. Jackals and vultures will eat flesh of large animals they find already dead, often cleaning up the lions' leftovers.
The slim, lithe, long legged Cheetahs are great hunters. With a gifted streamlined body they are the fastest of all land mammals. They can climb trees, rest on branches with an for the prey. They can kill by outpacing even the fastest antelopes.
Lions are the royal hunters. They mostly live in family groups and chill out in the open land along with their cubs. The moment it feels hungry it goes for the prey. Lions usually enjoy fresh kills.
Asian tropical grasslands or oriental savanna:
Most of these lie in India. Woodland once covered much of the land. The animals living here include gerbils, and gazelles. The Indian gerbils eats seeds, insects and fledglings.
It feeds at night, hiding in an underground burrow by day. Bennett's gazelles eat grass.
Nilgai, another herbivore antelope, is big and horse like. They are said to have invaded from the woodlands. Other antelopes of these grasslands include the blackbucks and four-horned antelopes.
Farther up in the Himalayan grasslands small mammals like pikas are hard workers and cut green plants and stack them to dry and store them for the winter. Short horned mountain goats also
graze on the highlands of the Himalayas. Yak is a bulky mountain mammal and is a Tibetan member of the cattle family. With a long thick coat of hair they can survive on snow and lichen when other nourishments run out.
Among the hunters and carnivores in the grasslands most are small. Pangolins are scaly anteaters. When themselves feel threatened these mammals curl up into a ball, to protect its soft snout and belly. Hedgehogs and shrews prey on insects. The Indian mongoose and
the honey badger include snakes in their diet.
Then comes the snakes. Indian cobras are one of most agile, ferocious and revered of snakes. They kill rats, birds and frogs. The Bengal fox and jungle cat are fierce hunters.
But any old dead animal is a welcome meal for the scavenging striped hyena, golden jackal
and Egyptian vulture. At one time much larger predators roamed India's grasslands. Here, the Indian lion, a beast with a smaller mane than its African counterpart, hunts deer and
antelopes. Indian cheetahs bound along in pursuit of blackbuck and gazelles. But man has driven out both cheetahs and lions turning them into one of the rare species.
Going further northward from India across the world's highest mountains what comes is the Central Asia's great plains. Called steppes these plains have warm summers but very cold winters. Thus they too, support short grasses and tend to be treeless.
The smaller animals include hares, bastards, ground squirrels called susliks and mole rats. Most of the antelope variety here have a bulging snout which may help warm the freezing air it breathes in winter. Argali of Central Asian slopes and valleys is Asia's largest mountain sheep. Central Asia is also home to the world's last remaining truly wild horse - Przewalski's horse, scepter thesis.
Among the hunters special ones include snakes like steppe vipers which kill hamsters,
voles and shrews with its poisoning fangs. The mammal hunters include steppe polecats
which kill snakes and rodents. Pallas's cat eats rodents and birds.
Corsac foxes and wolves, the largest mammal predators of the steppes, prey down rodents and hares.
Though the severely cold and harsh Tundra region occupies most of the Europe's grassland, that does not reduce the animals variety. In fact, Europe's grasslands support a wealth of animals. These are not only on the grassitself, but flying in the air above and creeping in the soil beneath.
Western Europe was largely forested until men cut down trees for timber and firewood and to open up the land for farming. Where men leave such open land alone, trees once again spring up and cover it. But where they graze sheep and cattle, these mammals crop or trample seedlings, and the grass persists.
Grasses or the flowering plants that grow among them, help feed an army of insects, including butterflies like the Adonis blue, and grasshoppers. Below the surface, dead leaves attacked by soil bacteria form food for earthworms. Many earthworms in turn form food for moles.
Meadow grass itself yields food for rabbits play a large part in keeping grass short and stopping trees from growing. If disease kills the rabbits, seedling birches, oaks and beeches may overshadow and replace the grass. Voles, too, are mowers and tunnel through grass to stay unseen from the predators. These vegetarians turn meals to predators that include weasels, foxes, owls and kestrels.
In grasslands of North and South America, grasses grow short. Though shrubberies are seen and large trees cannot grow. So the habitat support fewer kinds of animals than the grasslands in the warmer tropical or subtropical region. Prairie is the name given to North American grasslands. In the south it is known as pampas.
North America's pocket gophers also live largely
underground, eating bulbs and roots. Pocket gophers cram food in their
cheek pouches and carry it to hidden stores. They often pull whole plant underground.
The pikas living on the highlands of the Rockies feed underground on stores of summer
grass. Larger mammals graze on the cool climate grassland. Bison and antelope
pronghorns roamed in North America in their millions before the hunters nearly wiped
them out. Mule deer now largely take their place, in smaller number. Hunters dig
out or pounce upon many of the animals just mentioned. In North America, badgers,
coyotes and pumas are among the beasts that prey on prairie dogs.
It goes for anything from wild guinea pigs, to insects
and fruits. Puma, the big cat predator, is common to grasslands in both
Americas. Pumas are also called mountain lions as they live on high altitude and
prey on sheep, deer and rodents. Moving higher up in altitudes the llama is a
relative of the camel and lives on the highlands of the Andes. Other mountain mammals
in the camel family are alpaca, guanaco and vicuna.
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