What is an adaptation?
An adaptation is a way an animal's
body helps it survive, or live, in its
environment. Camels have learned to
adapt (or change) so that they can
Animals depend on their physical
features to help them obtain food,
keep safe, build homes, withstand
weather, and attract mates. These
physical features are called physical
adaptations. They makes it possible
for the animal to live in a particular
place and in a particular way.
Each adaptation has been produced by
evolution. This means that the
adaptations have developed over many
Examples of the basic adaptations
that help creatures survive:
•shape of a bird's beak,
•the number of fingers,
•color of the fur,
•the thickness or thinness of the fur,
•the shape of the nose or ears
How can animals live
in such different places in the world?
Animals and plants are adapted to the conditions of the habitats in which they live.
Animals live everywhere on Earth.
Some places on Earth are very hot and some are very cold. Some places on Earth have a lot of
water and plants, and other places have very little water and few plants. More than 99
percent of Antarctica is covered with ice but a few plants still grow there, mostly lichens,
mosses, and algae. Antarctica is very cold.
The two main adaptations that desert animals must make are how
to deal with lack of water and how to deal with extremes in
temperature. Many desert animals avoid the heat of the desert
by simply staying out of it as much as possible.
Where do animals in the desert get their water from?
Since water is so scarce, most desert animals get their water
from the food they eat: succulent plants, seeds, or the blood and
body tissues of their prey.
How do desert animals prevent water from leaving their
Desert animals prevent water leaving their bodies in a number of
different ways. Some, like kangaroo rats and lizards, live in
burrows which do not get too hot or too cold and have more
humid (damp) air inside. These animals stay in their burrows
during the hot days and emerge at night to feed.
Other animals have bodies designed to save water. Scorpions and
wolf spiders have a thick outer covering which reduces moisture
loss. The kidneys of desert animals concentrate urine, so that
they excrete less water.
1. The desert tortoise may be active during the day (diurnal) or
the morning and evening (crepuscular), depending on the
2. This tortoise burrows under the sand to protect itself from
extreme desert temperatures.
3. Adults can survive for about a year without water. They are
able to obtain water from their diet.
4. Tortoises can withdraw their head, legs, and tail into the shell
providing themselves protection against predators.
5. To utilize the infrequent rainfalls, tortoises dig shallow pits to
catch the water. The tortoises may be found waiting by these
areas when rain is in the forecast.
Camels are herbivores; they eat desert vegetation, such as grasses,
herbs, and leaves.
How do camels adapt to their environment?
Camels have many adaptations that allow them to live successfully
in desert conditions. Deserts are hot and dry. Winds blow sand
all around, so a camel has long eyelashes. It has nostrils that can
open and close.
Why do camels have long eyelashes?
The long eyelashes keep sand out of
the camel's eyes.
Thick eyebrows shield the eyes from
the desert sun.
Why does a camel have nostrils which can close?
A camel’s nostrils can close so it doesn't get sand
up its nose.
1. A camel can go a week or more without water, and they can last for several
months without food. They can drink up to 32 gallons (46 liters) of water
at one drinking session!
2. Camels store fat in the hump, not water. The fat can be
metabolized for energy.
3. Unlike most mammals, a healthy camel's body
temperature fluctuates (changes) throughout the
day from 34°C to 41.7°C (93°F-107°F.) This allows
the camel to conserve water by not sweating as the
environmental temperature rises.
4. Camel’s feet are wide so they can walk on sand more easily. Their huge feet
help them to walk on sand without sinking into it.
5. Camels have thick lips so they can eat the prickly desert plants without
6. The color of their bodies helps them to blend into their environment.
7. Camel's ears are covered with hair, even on the inside. The hair helps keep
out sand or dust that might blow into the animal's ears.
1. Their large ears, which are usually 4 to 6 inches long, help
dissipate excess body heat on hot days in the desert.
2. The fennec fox seems to be the only carnivore living in
the Sahara Desert able to survive without free water.
Their kidneys are adapted to restrict water loss, their
extensive burrowing may cause the formation of dew,
which can then be consumed, and they will receive moisture
from the food that they eat.
3. Their burrowing and nocturnal lifestyle helps restrict
4. Their thick fur helps insulate them from the cold desert
5. Their sandy fur helps to reflect heat, and also provides
6. Fennec foxes also have thick fur on the soles of their
feet, which insulate against the hot sand of the desert.
This extra fur on the soles of their feet also affords them
excellent traction in the loose sand.
1. Its expanding trunk allows it to take in
and store a great deal of water when
water is available.
2. It does not need a lot of water to
3. The flower only opens on cooler nights
and is closed during the heat of midday.
Tropical Grassland (Savannas) Conditions
Predators need to be quick, powerful, smart, and sneaky to
bring down fast and alert animals, like gazelles.
Cheetahs are built to move fast. These animals can reach
speeds of up to 80 miles an hour (129 kilometers per hour).
Lions, sneak up on their prey. Sometimes they will hunt with
their pride and ambush unsuspecting prey.
Hyenas hunt in groups. They also scavenge kills from other
1.Why are giraffes able to go for long periods of time without
A giraffe can consume up to 12 gallons of water at one time when
drinking from a water hole. They also obtain water from the dew on
the leaves they eat and the water contained in their food.
2.How are their long necks adapted to their
3.Their long necks allow them to feed among treetops
and spot predators.
3.What is special about a giraffe's heart?
Giraffes have an extra-large heart to pump blood up their long necks
to the brain. A giraffe's heart is 2-3 times stronger than a human
4.Why do giraffes have tough tongues?
Long, tough tongues enable the giraffe to pull leaves from branches
without being hurt by the thorns during feeding. They have prehensile
tongues which allow them to hold branches by wrapping their tongues
around the branches)
Their tongues are up to 18 inches long
5.Why do giraffes have a spots on their fur?
Spotted coat camouflages giraffes among the trees.
Why do lions have loose belly skin?
It's not because they are out of shape! It's an adaptation for their
protection. Loose belly skin allows animal to be kicked by prey with
little chance of injury.
What is the purpose of the mane on a male lion?
Thick mane helps male look bigger and protects the throat.
Why are the eyes of a lion set in the front of its head rather
than on the sides?
Eyes in front allow for depth perception and ability to judge distances
when stalking or ambushing prey.
A lion has heavily muscled forelimbs and shoulders. Why?
Heavily muscled forelimbs and shoulders add strength for capturing
Why do they have forepaws equipped with long, retractile claws?
Forepaws equipped with long, retractile claws which help to grab and
Why do they have a rough tongue?
Rough tongue designed to peel skin of prey animal away from flesh,
and flesh from bone.
Why are lions a sandy color?
Sandy coat color camouflages animal and young among scrub
Rock deserts and sparse grasslands.
Lizards Leopard Gecko
1. Like many lizards, the leopard gecko has a tail, which breaks
off readily when grabbed by a predator. This permits the
gecko to get away if attacked.
Unfortunately, it leaves a valuable food resource behind; the
tail is used as a fat storage for lean periods in the desert.
2. They are strictly nocturnal, keeping out of the heat of the
day, emerging at night from holes and crevices to hunt for
3. Many geckos lack eyelids, but the leopard gecko's are not
only translucent, but they are movable, which allows them to
blink and close their eyes while sleeping.
Additionally, this helps protect their eyes against the blowing
sand of the desert.
4. Extra-thick skin helps to prevent drying out in the desert.
Additionally, it protects from the wear and tear of moving
through dry scrub or around sharp rocks.
How are animals living in the polar region adapted to the
conditions in which they live in?
Animals of the Arctic have many adaptations to help them survive in
often inhospitable climate.
A polar bear lives in the cold, snowy Arctic lands. They are the
largest land carnivores.
How has a polar bear adapted to its Arctic environment?
Why are polar bears white?
Their white fur helps them blend in with the snow and ice.
How does a polar bear keep warm?
A polar bear has a layer of fat under its skin which helps it
stay warm. It also has a thick layer of fur.
Why does a polar bear have very wide, large paws?
The wide, large paws help a polar bear to walk in the snow.
Why does a polar bear have nostrils which it can close?
When a polar bear swims under water it closes it nostrils so no water
can get in.
Why will we not find a polar bear living in a desert?
Polar bears are adapted to suit a cold environment.
If a polar bear was adapted to live in a desert:
•What color would the polar bear be so it was camouflaged?
•Would it still have thick fir?
•What would it eat?
Animals of the Arctic have many adaptations to help
them survive in often inhospitable climate.
Some Penguins live in the Antarctic, where it is extremely cold, and
the water temperatures never rise above freezing. Others live
further North, but all penguins live in the Southern Hemisphere.
Penguins are flightless birds, but are excellent swimmers. They live on
packed ice and in the oceans around Antarctica. They breed on the
land or ice surfaces along the coast and on islands.
How are penguins adapted so they can swim fast?
Penguins have webbed feet for powerful swimming. Their bodies are
streamlined to reduce drag in water. Their wings, shaped like flippers,
also help them "fly" underwater at speeds up to 15 mph.
How do penguins keep warm?
Penguins have to keep high body temperatures to remain active. They
have thick skin and lots of fat (blubber) under their skin to keep
warm in cold weather. They also huddle together with their friends to
keep warm. Emperor penguins have developed a social behavior that
when it gets cold, they huddle together in groups that may comprise
several thousand penguins. The dark colored feathers of a penguin's
back surface absorb heat from the sun, so helping them to warm up
What is the job of penguins’ feathers?
Penguins tightly packed feathers overlap to provide waterproofing and
warmth. They coat their feathers with oil from a gland near the tail
to increase impermeability. Waterproofing is critical to penguins'
survival in water, Antarctic seas may be as cold as -2.2°C (28°F) and
rarely get above +2°C (35.6°F).
How do penguins stay under water?
Penguins don't have all the extra airspaces in their bones that normal
birds have. Their heavy, solid bones act like a diver's weight belt,
allowing them to stay underwater.
•Streamlined to move fast, to catch food and to escape from
•Excellent hearing to protect itself from predators
•Very intelligent mammal
•Swims with other dolphins for company and protection
How are large snakes such as pythons able to swallow prey
that is bigger than their own heads?
It's because their jaws are adapted to do so.
The bones of their mouth are loosely joined to their skulls. A
stretchy strip of tissue called a ligament holds together the
two halves of the lower jaw.
When the snakes swallow their prey, their mouths can stretch
wide open. The lower jawbones spread apart and each bone
moves separately to pull the prey into the mouth.
Snakes usually swallow their prey headfirst which causes the
prey's legs to fold back, making it more streamlined and
easier to swallow.
The teeth of most snakes also curve backward which prevents
the prey wiggling out. As snakes work their food down their
throats, their windpipes displace themselves which means that
the snakes can keep breathing while they are swallowing.
What does a frog eat?
Frogs are carnivores. They eat insects, spiders, worms, snails,
fish, and even small rodents like mice.
How does a frog eat?
When a frog spots a tasty meal, it flicks out its long, sticky
tongue. The tongue lassos the meal/creature and pulls it back
into the frog's mouth.
Do frogs have teeth?
Yes, frogs do have teeth, however, they are small and so not
really good for chewing. Frogs mostly use their teeth just to
hold their prey in their mouths, and then they swallow their
What is so special about a frog’s head?
A frog's head has adaptations that help it to swallow prey.
Unlike a human's eyes which are fixed in our heads in bony
circles called orbits, the orbits surrounding a frog's eyes do
not have bottoms. This means that when a frog swallows large
prey, it can close its eyelids and drop its eyeballs down into its
mouth. Yuck! Then the eyeballs help push the prey down the
throat of the frog. (Incredible as it may sound, this is true!)
Not all frogs look or act the same. Frogs have adapted to
the environment around them.
A Dyeing Poison Tree Frog is brightly colored
to warn enemies of lethal nerve toxins. Its finger
and toe tips have glandular adhesive pads that enable the
animal to climb.
Questions for Research on Adaptations
1. In your own words, explain adaptation.
2. Name three adaptations that help animals survive.
3. What are the two main adaptations desert animals must make?
4. Give two examples of desert animals and their adaptations.
5. Tell about two adaptations camels have to help them live
successfully in the desert.
6. List two adaptations giraffes have to help them live in the
7. The lion and gecko also live in the grasslands. Write about at
least 3 ways these animals are able to adapt to life in the
8. Polar bears and penguins live in the arctic regions. They have
many adaptations to help them survive. Give two examples of
adaptations for each animal.
9. List two adaptations of dolphins, snakes, or frogs.