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Adaptations – Physiological and Climatic

Aug 30, 2022
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Key Concepts

  • Adaptations
  • Types of adaptations
  • Physiological adaptations
  • Examples of physiological adaptations
  • Climatic adaptations
  • Examples of climatic adaptations

Introduction: 

Adaptations are special physical features or behavioral characteristics that help living organisms survive in their environment. All organisms have certain adaptations that help them survive in their particular environment. Adaptation can involve an organism’s color, shape, behavior, or chemical makeup. 

Explanation: 

Adaptations are usually the products of multiple mutations, all of which, individually or in combination, have stood the test of natural selection.  

Mutation creates variation in populations, and genetic variation is specifically significant as it creates phenotypic variation in terms of morphology, physiology, biochemistry, or behavior. Genetic variation that leads to greater reproductive success persists over time. 

Every organism is subjected to competition for basic needs like food, shelter, water, and others in its natural habitat. Organisms have to develop adaptations that help them survive better against the climatic conditions, predators, and other similar resources to other organisms living in that habitat. Animals have to develop new adaptations to accommodate the constantly changing environment of the Earth. 

Adaptations 

 

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Types of Adaptations: 

Adaptations are classified according to their function and the response observed. Some of which are as follows: 

  1. Structural adaptations 
  2. Behavioral adaptations 
  3. Physiological adaptations 

Physiological Adaptations

Physiology refers to how the organs and tissues of the body are structured and work. Due to evolution, the physiology of all living organisms is designed to keep them healthy to survive and reproduce. 

Physiological adaptations consist of the internal and cellular features of organisms that enable them to survive in their environment. This adaptation occurs in all living organisms, including humans, birds, animals, and plants.  

This type of adaptation involves the cellular features, internal organs, changes in the hormonal level, mood swings, and other features that help an organism to survive, adapt, and respond to the changes in its environment. The physiological adaptations affect internal functions such as breathing, temperature, and chemical mechanisms. 

Physiological features 

Examples of physiological adaptations: 

1. Production of venom and defense chemicals

Some animals, like snakes, bees, and spiders, produce venom to paralyze their prey and make them easier to digest. Various marine and land animals have chemical defense mechanisms that help them ward off predators. 

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Snake producing venom 

2. Concentration of urine

Animals that live in dry, arid, and extreme conditions require an animal adaptation that can help them to survive even in acute scarcity of water. In these animals, waste and other excretory products are stored inside their bodies for a longer period without poisoning them or causing harm to other organs. To achieve this, there is a modified urine concentration mechanism in their kidneys. Examples- fennec fox, camels, etc. 

3. Offensive odor production

Some animals, like skunks, produce a distinctive, disgusting chemical and spray this chemical to keep away all potential predators or competitors. 

Adaptations of skunk

4. Tanning (in humans)

Tanning is an adaptation in response to seasonally high UVR, especially UVB, levels. It is a significant adaptation for human populations living in the temperature range of 23-46ºC since this zone has varying levels and concentrations of UVB depending on the season. 

Tanning in humans 

5. Molting

Animals like polar bears have to stay warm during the winter, but their thick fur coat becomes too hot during the summer season. Molting is a physiological process that helps them to cool down and shed heavy amounts of fur. This helps them hunt faster and more efficiently in the summer when there is less ice. Molting is a feature of many animals, like cats and dogs. 

6. Breathing underwater

Large mammals like whales live in the ocean forever, but they need to breathe air, so they have become adapted to holding their breath for long periods underwater. 

7. Climatic adaptations

Climate has a significant effect on all living organisms. Climate changes from place to place. As a result, animals have special characteristics that enable them to thrive and survive in a particular climate. Different regions have different climates, and based on this, they are classified as polar, desert, tropical, or temperate regions. 

8. Adaptations of animals in the polar region

Penguins live in extremely cold conditions and have various adaptations that help them survive the cold. They possess streamlined bodies and webbed feet, which make them good swimmers. They have an additional layer of fat called blubber below their fur, which keeps them insulated and protects them against the cold. They travel in groups so that the body heat of all the group members helps them fight the cold weather. 

Adaptations of penguins 

Many other animals, like the polar bear, seals, whales, and walruses, also have a thick layer of fat called blubber beneath their skins, which helps keep their bodies warm and insulated from the extreme cold. 

The polar bear’s dense white fur acts as a good insulator against the cold and also helps the animal to camouflage itself from its prey, thereby enabling it to hunt efficiently both on land and in water. The female polar bears make dens in the snow where they might hibernate during winter. Hibernation allows them to survive without food and water during the winter season. Meanwhile, during hibernation, the fat stores of the body get converted into energy for the body to function.  

Adaptations in polar bear 

Ptarmigans are birds of the Arctic and have feathers up to their feet, to keep their bodies warm. These birds stay in the Arctic throughout the year while some other birds such as the snow geese and Arctic terns migrate to the warmer regions during winter. 

9. Adaptations of animals in the tropical region

The tropical areas receive plenty of rainfall and are hence covered with dense forests that are inhabited by various plant and animal species. The tropical rainforests are habitats for gorillas, monkeys, tigers, snakes, and various birds, as well as insects. 

Animals living in tropical regions have sharp eyesight, a strong sense of smell, and thick skin. They have a high perspiration rate, which produces a cooling effect that helps them survive the heat and induces faster evaporation by active sweating, panting, and licking. Similar to animals in hot desert climates, these animals too are more active during early mornings, evenings, or nights. Camouflage and a nocturnal lifestyle are some of the important adaptations of tropical animals. 

For example, the tree frog Hyla has sticky webbed feet that aid it in climbing trees. The bright feathers of a toucan, a bird, allow it to blend in with the surroundings. Stick insects also exhibit camouflage by resembling dry twigs. 

Monkeys have long tails and limbs, which help them hang and climb on branches. Indian elephants tend to have a strong sense of smell and can hear the faintest sound from a distance. 

Adaptations of stick insect 

10. Adaptations of animals in the desert region

Deserts receive a minimum amount of rainfall and are characterized by extremely hot summers and extremely cold winters. 

Camels have long and full eyelashes, ear hair, and nostrils which they can close, to keep the sand out. Their wide feet ensure walking on sand without sinking into it. The hump of a camel is a fatty tissue reservoir. 

Camels can go a week or more without water and can last for several months without food. They have thick lips to help them feed on prickly desert plants without hurting themselves. Camels can withstand changes in body temperature throughout the day from 34°C to 41.7°C. This allows them to save water by not sweating as the temperature rises outside. 

A kangaroo rat is a desert animal that lives in burrows to escape from the hot midday heat and recycle the moisture from its own breathing. They are active only in the morning and evening to avoid the scorching heat. These animals do not drink water as their water requirements are met by digesting dry seeds. 

Adaptations of kangaroo rat 

Fennecs are nocturnal animals and only search for food at night when there is less heat. During the day, the fennec stays within its den with other foxes. Its long ears aid in heat dissipation. 

Summary

  • Adaptations are special physical features or behavioral characteristics that help living organisms survive in their environment.
  • Adaptations are usually the products of multiple mutations, all of which, individually or in combination, have stood the test of natural selection.
  • Physiological adaptations consist of the internal and cellular features of organisms that enable them to survive in their environment.
  • Climate changes from place to place due to which animals have special characteristics that enable them to thrive and survive in a particular climate.

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