The Karoo desert is located in South Africa and, rather than being a traditional sand desert, is more of a semi-desert with barren landscape covering a plateau that covers much of the country. The Karoo is distinguished by two regions, the northern Great Karoo covering an area of 154440.863 square miles dominated by the Nuweweld Mountains and the southern Little Karoo. However as the ice warmed, the area became home to vast inland seas and swamps that themselves dried out millennia ago. Many fossils of reptiles that roamed the area during this period have been found in the rock strata. Indeed the Karoo Desert is acknowledged as being one of the biggest and most important fossil deposit sites in the world with creatures such as the Pareiasaurus (a hippo-crocodile combo) and the Diictodon being found dating back some 240 million years.
This era came to an end when the volcanoes erupted filling the basin with molten lava that extinguished most life forms and, after the cooling, led to the introduction of small mammal life forms and the landscape that is now evident. Today, the desert is home to a few animals including the black rhino, caracal and aardvark, the mountain zebra and Cape and bat-eared foxes. It is estimated that there are around 9000 species of plants in the Great Karoo giving it the widest diversity of desert flora of any desert on Earth. Although sparsely populated due to its arid nature, there are a number of small communities living inside the Karoo Desert. The oldest and largest such town, Beaufort West, can be traced back to the 1830s and is located close to the Karoo Nature Reserve. One of its claims to fame is that Beaufort West was the birthplace of Doctor Christian Barnard who performed the world's first successful heart transplant operation. Most of these towns supply the vast tracks of land that are used to rear marino sheep and cattle.
Karoo Desert: South Africa Country Profile
Karoo Desert: Main Deserts
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