The Gobi Desert may be Asia’s largest desert, but it’s not just some lifeless pool of orange sand. Its unique landscape is home to some of the world’s rarest animals, and is also the largest dinosaur fossil reservoir on the planet. Keen to know more? Keep on reading to learn 20 facts about the Gobi Desert.
Fact 1: The Gobi Desert is an expansive desert and brushland region in Asia.
- It covers parts of Northern and Northeastern China and of Southern Mongolia.
Fact 2: The Gobi Desert is the fifth-largest desert in the world.
- It arcs across the borderlands of northern China and southern Mongolia. Extending for some 1,200 miles east northeast from China’s Tian Shan, or “Celestial,” mountain range into China’s Manchurian region, it covers well over half a million square miles, lying in the heart of Asia’s most remote region.
Fact 3: The Gobi Desert covers 1.3 million square kilometres of land area.
- With the elevations of its basins ranging from roughly 1600 to 5000 feet above sea level, the Gobi lies at about the same latitude as those of central Europe and the northern United States.
Fact 4: Sand dunes only account for 5% of the Gobi Desert.
- This Mongolian desert also features mountains with lush green valleys, large sand dunes, oasis’, rivers, lakes, historical sites, vast barren steppes, grassy steppes, and mud cliffs with dinosaur fossils.
Fact 5: The Gobi Desert regularly experiences extreme temperature changes.
- These winds may cause the Gobi to reach −40 °C in winter to 45 °C in summer.
- However, the climate of the Gobi is one of great extremes, combined with rapid changes of temperature of as much as 35 °C.
- January is usually the coldest month and July is the warmest month.
Fact 6: The Gobi Desert is a rain shadow desert.
- A rain shadow is a patch of land that has been forced to become a desert because mountain ranges have blocked all plants from growing, and rainy weather from visiting.
- The Gobi was said to have been formed by the Tibetan Plateau blocking precipitation from the Indian Ocean that reached as far as the Gobi territory.
Fact 7: The Gobi Desert is the largest dinosaur fossil reservoir in the world.
- It’s the source of many important fossils finds, including the first dinosaur eggs, twenty-six of which, averaging 9 inches in length, were uncovered here in 1923.
Fact 8: The animals currently inhabiting the Gobi Desert are well-adapted to survive in the extreme desert climate.
- Despite the harsh conditions, these deserts and the surrounding regions sustain many animals, including some of iconic species’ like the snow leopard, black-tailed gazelle, Gobi viper, jerboa, Gobi bear, Gobi ibex, wild Bactrian camel, and many more.
Fact 9: The Jerboa is one of the most iconic residents of the Mongolian desert.
- The jerboa is a family of small mammals adapted to burrowing and known for their jumping ability.
- They have exceptionally long back legs which are five times longer than their forelegs.
- They can also jump in sandy soil to a distance of 10 feet.
Fact 10: There are 30 species of lizard found in the Gobi Desert.
- One of which is the Gobi racerunner which is a lizard species endemic to Asia.
Fact 11: In J.R.R Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”, Bilbo Baggins boasts of his readiness to walk the “Great Desert of Gobi” and fight the Chinese wild wireworm.
- The wireworm is almost like a young version of a click beetle.
Fact 12: Dinosaur eggs and fossils are a predominant feature of the Gobi Desert’s “Flaming Cliffs”.
- The region’s precipitous banks, hillocks, and hardened clay soil remain mostly unchanged since the Cretaceous period.
- These geological formations blaze brilliant shades of red and orange at sunset, thus earning the name “Flaming cliffs” as dubbed by American palaeontologist Roy Chapman Andrews in the 1920s.
Fact 13: It does rain in the Gobi Desert.
- Although the Gobi is situated in a rain shadow, which blocks most rain and snow from reaching the desert and warms the air, it does receive just a little over 19 centimetres, or 7.6 inches, of precipitation a year.
Fact 14: It’s home to one of the world’s biggest and most spectacular sand dunes, the Khongor sand dune.
- Khongoryn Els also called Duut Mankhan is popularly known as the “Singing Sands”. It lies within the Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park in Mongolia.
- The sand dunes extend over a 965 square kilometre area.
Fact 15: The Gobi Desert played an important role in history as part of the great Mongol Empire.
- It was where several important cities were built along the Silk Road.
Fact 16: The Gobi’s ancient city of Karakorum was the capital of the Mongol Empire between 1235 and 1260.
- In 1220 Genghis Khan, the great Mongol conqueror, established his headquarters there and used it as a base for his invasion of China.
Fact 17: Chances are, you’ll only stumble into 3 other living souls per square mile in the Gobi Desert because of its sheer size.
- On the bright side, the Gobi Desert has some of the most hospitable residents. Because the people who live here rarely see visitors they always welcome visitors, and give food and lodging to those who need it.
Fact 18: Most inhabitants of the Gobi Desert live a nomadic lifestyle.
- Majority of the Gobi Desert human population raise cattle for a living and use traditional living quarters known as Mongolian Gers (yurts).
Fact 19: It’s where one of the largest known copper and gold deposits in the world is found.
- The south Gobi Desert alone has an estimated 35 million tonnes of copper.
- Oyu Tolgoi, in particular, is one of the most exciting developments in copper and gold mining for several decades.
Fact 20: The ancient sub-species of the brown bear, the Mazaalai, is the only desert-dwelling bear species living in the Gobi Desert.
- With less than 30 living individuals, it is listed as ‘critically endangered’ by the Mongolian Redbook of Endangered Species and by the Zoological Society of London.