It starts in the early morning on a barren strip of western coastline. It is as forbidding and inhospitable looking as any landscape one can conjure…on this planet…or any other. Against the turbulent Atlantic tidal zone lies a dune field that is considered one of the world’s oldest deserts. The Namib. Mile upon desolate mile of undulating sand country…the shifting hills starting out an almost impossible white and growing steadily richer in hue as one moves inland until they are a magnificent glowing bronze.

There is impossible life here…niche specialized denizens so adapted to a world devoid of moisture that they thrive here…much of the time below the burning sand. Where there is life…even tenuous life…there is also death. There are desert adapted killers that lurk in the sand too.
It starts on an early mist shrouded morning…the Shovel snouted Lizard scuttles across the side of a dune in search of breakfast. It seeks Tenebrionid Beetles…long legged and incredibly nimble on the unstable strata…along with a wide range of other burrowing arthropods. The lizard is playing against time. As the sun continues its relentless occupation of the sky the dune surface temperatures become intolerably hot and the lizard will eventually have to burrow to escape.

Sidewinder adder (image: Wikipedia)

It stops and peers into the distance through the heat shimmer. Something dark is wriggling against the sand surface…worm like and enticing. The reptile moves into position for the final rush. As it bears down on the object the sand explodes and a writhing, coiled malevolence grabs the unwitting lizard. A powerful cytotoxin courses through the thrashing body and it succumbs soon to the inevitable.

A Sidewinding Adder or Peringuey’s Adder. A perfectly designed ambush hunter of the dune lands. Eyes positioned on top of the head like a crocodile’s affords the snake an ability to bury its entire body excepting its eyes and to lie in wait for a passing prey item. One other body part is exposed…the dark coloured tip of the tail. The snake wriggles it…as bait…to an unsuspecting lizard. It’s known as a Caudal Lure…and this snake is a master at its manipulation.

The lizard itself becomes breakfast to another…and something else. Shovel snouted Lizards have two bladders. One for urine…and one for the retention of water! Up to twelve percent of its body mass is water. The snake acquires sustenance from the kill in the form of flesh and in this harsh desert land…it acquires too the “currency of life” …water.

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