Savanna Biome: Climate, Locations, and Wildlife

Savanna Lions
Lions on the Savanna, Kenya, Narok County, Masai Mara. Jonathan & Angela Scott/AWL Images/Getty Images

Biomes, the world's major habitats, are defined by their unique vegetation and animal life. They include regions such as tundra, desert, and tropical rainforest.

The savanna biome consists of areas of open grassland with very few trees. There are two types of savannas, tropical and semi-tropical savannas. A savanna is one type of grassland biome.

Climate

The savanna climate varies according to the season. In the dry season, temperatures can be extremely hot or cool. In the wet season, temperatures are usually warm. Savannas are typically dry, receiving less than 30 inches of rain on average per year.

Tropical savannas receive as much as 50 inches of rain during the wet season, but as little as four inches during the dry season. The dry climate combined with the extreme heat of the dry season makes savannas perfect areas for grass and brush fires.

Location

Grasslands are located on every continent except Antarctica. The largest savannas are located in Africa near the equator. One of the most famous African savannas is Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, which is known for its large wildebeest and zebra populations. The park is also home to lions, leopards, elephants, hippos, and gazelles.

Other locations of savannas include:

  • Africa: Kenya, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, and Namibia
  • Australia
  • Central America: Belize and Honduras
  • South America: Venezuela and Columbia
  • Southern Asia

Vegetation

The savanna biome is often described as an area of grassland with dispersed trees or clusters of trees. The lack of water makes the savanna a difficult place for tall plants such as trees to grow. Grasses and trees that grow in the savanna have adapted to life with little water and hot temperatures. Grasses, for example, grow quickly in the wet season when water is abundant and turn brown in the dry season to conserve water. Some trees store water in their roots and only produce leaves during the wet season. Due to frequent fires, grasses stay close to the ground and some plants are fire resistant. Examples of vegetation in the savanna include wild grasses, shrubs, baobab trees, and acacia trees.

Wildlife

The savanna is home to many large land mammals, including elephants, giraffes, zebras, rhinoceroses, buffalo, lions, leopards, and cheetahs. Other animals include baboons, crocodiles, antelopes, meerkats, ants, termites, kangaroos, ostriches, and snakes.

Many of the savanna biome animals are grazing herbivores that migrate through the region. They rely on their herd numbers and speed for survival, as the vast open areas provide little means of escape from quick predators. If the prey is too slow, it becomes dinner. If the predator is not fast enough, it goes hungry. Camouflage and mimicry are also very important to animals of the savanna. Predators often need to blend in with their environment in order to sneak up on unsuspecting prey. The puff adder, for example, is a snake with sandy coloring that allows it to blend in with dry grasses and shrubs. Prey also use the same camouflage technique as a defense mechanism to conceal themselves from animals higher up on the food chain.