The North American deserts are not completely barren, but contain an intermittent vegetation consisting of cacti and other succulent plants, normally growing as single specimens, each widely separated from one another. The barren soil surface between the plants conceals a vast network of roots spreading out to collect enough water for each plant to survive.Among the roots lives the rootsucker. It is heavily armored to protect it from desiccation rather than to defend it from attack. Its head is shielded by a broad spade-like plate and its back is covered by a shiny nutlike shell composed of compacted hair. Its tail and feet are also armored, but with articulated plates that permit total mobility. The rootsucker moves through the sand using its broad feet like paddles and its head shield as a shovel to reach the succulent roots on which it feeds, gnawing them with the edge of its head shield and lower incisors.