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What Are Adaptations? - Lesson for Kids

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Instructor
Lindsy Frazer

Dr. Frazer has taught several college level Science courses and has a master's degree in Human Biology and a PhD in Library and Information Science.

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Christianlly Cena

Christianlly has taught college Physics, Natural science, Earth science, and facilitated laboratory courses. He has a master's degree in Physics and is currently pursuing his doctorate degree.

Adaptations are developed characteristics that make a creature more suited to its environment. Learn about the two primary types of adaptations, physical and behavioral, and why they are important. Updated: 01/03/2022

What Are Adaptations?

Imagine a planet so far from the sun that it's always nighttime. Without the warmth of the sun, this planet is also very cold. What kind of changes to the human body would help humans live on this planet?

Eyes that have night vision or a thick coat of fur would certainly be helpful on a dark, cold planet. These changes would help humans adapt, or fit into, this new sunless environment, so we call them adaptations. Adaptations are body parts or behaviors that help a living thing survive in an environment.

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  • 0:04 What Are Adaptations?
  • 0:41 Physical Adaptations
  • 2:36 Behavioral Adaptations
  • 3:43 Lesson Summary
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Physical Adaptations

Adaptations are not all about body parts; some are about actions. There are two main types of adaptation: physical and behavioral. Physical adaptations are special body parts that help a plant or animal survive in an environment.

Why do giraffes have long necks? Because their feet smell! That's just a silly joke, but have you ever wondered why giraffes have necks that are much longer than other animals? It's all about food. All living things need food to survive, and in the wild, many animals have to compete for food. Talk about a serious food fight! Giraffes' long necks are a physical adaptation that help them reach food other animals cannot. Long necks help giraffes survive in an environment where many animals are fighting for food and there are many tall trees around.


Camouflage is a physical adaptation that allows animals to blend in with their surroundings.
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Can you spot the animal hanging out in the picture? Believe it or not, there is a gecko - a type of lizard - sitting on this log. This gecko is using a physical adaptation called camouflage to blend in with the log and hide from other animals. Camouflage is an animal's coloring that allows it to match its surroundings. How can camouflage help an animal survive in its environment? Camouflage lets an animal hide from predators or sneak up on prey.

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Additional Activities

Adaptations of Animals: A Case Study

In this activity, you'll be asked to analyze two scenarios and provide a written response to the questions that follow.

Case 1

The wood frog resides in the boreal forests of the north to the southern Appalachians. To survive the harsh temperature during winter, the wood frog buries itself and goes into a deep sleep. The frog's breathing and heartbeat cease as it becomes semi-frozen. In achieving this feat, the creature builds up high concentrations of glucose in its organs and tissues. The glucose then limits the amount of ice that forms and prevents the shrinkage and death of the frog's cells. As the cold weather ends, the frozen frog is thawed and starts hunting for food. It also relies upon its leaf-like pattern to hide from predators and to hunt for insects.

Case 2

The West African lungfish is considered a living fossil, having lived on the planet for nearly 400 million years. The survival of this species is all thanks to its ability to extract oxygen from water and air. These fish can also survive without food by entering a dormant state. In this state, the lungfish hides in a mucus cocoon for years and takes nutrients by digesting its own muscle tissue.


Questions

  1. Define behavioral and physical adaptations.
  2. What type of adaptation does a wood frog exhibit? Why do you say so?
  3. What type of adaptation does a lungfish exhibit? Why do you say so?
  4. Which animal used camouflage? Which animal underwent hibernation?



Sample Answers

  1. Behavioral adaptations are actions that animals take to survive in their environments. On the other hand, physical adaptations are special body parts that help an animal survive in an environment.
  2. A wood frog relies on physical adaptation by freezing itself and protecting its cells using high concentrations of glucose. It also blends within the surroundings to hide from predators and hunt for food.
  3. The West African lungfish hides in its cocoon for years and has specialized lungs to draw oxygen from the air. Hence, a lungfish exhibits both behavioral and physical adaptations.
  4. A wood frog blending with its surroundings is an example of camouflage. On the other hand, a lungfish entering a dormant state in its cocoon is an example of hibernation.

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