An adaptation is a physical or behavioral characteristic that has developed to allow an organism to better survive in its environment. Adaptations are the result of evolution and may occur when a gene mutates or changes by accident. That mutation causes the organism to better survive and reproduce, and it passes on that trait to its offspring. It can take many generations to develop an adaptation.
Examples of Physical Adaptations
One physical adaptation used in the intertidal zone is a crab's hard shell, which protects it from predators, drying out, and being crushed by waves. One example of behavioral adaptation in the oceans is the use of loud, low-frequency calls by fin whales to communicate with other whales over great distances.
Other physical adaptations that have been structurally modified may include webbed feet, sharp claws and large beaks. Other changes made to a part of the body could be wings/flying, feathers, fur, or scales.
Ways Behavioral Changes Occur
Behavioral adaptations include an animal's actions, which typically are in response to an external stimulus. Several of these may include what an animal is capable of eating, how they move, or the way they protect themselves.
Take squirrels as an example of a behavioral adaptation. Squirrels, woodchucks, and chipmunks are able to hibernate for up to 12 months, often consuming plenty of food in preparation for winter. In this scenario, these small animals have found a way to evolve in a season to protect themselves from harsh weather conditions, preserving food, and their environment.
Interesting Animal Adaptations
- The maned wolf (pictured above) is part of the canid family but is only a distant relative. The theory says their legs evolved to survive the tall grasslands of South America.
- The gerenuk can stand taller above the rest of the antelope species, which offers them a special feeding opportunity. There are over ninety-one species of antelope, creating plenty of competition amongst them.
- The tufted deer from China has fangs hanging from their mouths that are typically used in mating fights between males. Most deer do not possess this unique adaptation.
A True Advantage
The ability for mammals to adapt throughout the planet is part of why we have so many diverse animals existing today in our lands, seas, and skies. Animals can protect themselves from predators and adapt to new environments through adaptations and mutations, unlike human beings. For example, animals that are camouflaged often have colorations or patterns that can assist them in blending in with their surroundings. This will benefit them in the long run, quite literally, when it comes to predators.
Mutations may also take place through a change in DNA. What a living mammal is born with may change how it grows and what it can do over time. Through these possibilities can animals have a larger opportunity to survive their dangerous environments and continue the circle of life by having offspring. This is the process known as natural selection.