Animals and plants must survive in their habitats.
Plants have special features to help them survive.
Animal adaptations can be physical changes or changes in their behaviour.
Within a habitat there is competition for food, water, sunlight and space. Animals and plants have developed special features such as parts of the body or plant, colouring or covering, or behaviours in order to survive in their habitat.
This is called adaptation. If a habitat changes drastically, species must adapt or they won't survive.
In every habitat there are many examples of adaptation in body features, food and searching for food, behaviours (the actions of an animal) and growth.
If a habitat changes in some way, or becomes too crowded or dangerous, sometimes animals migrate (move) to a new environment. This often means they must adapt to new foods, new ways of getting food or different ways of moving about, and new dangers to face. One example is a number of desert-adapted black rhinoceros that now live in a rocky, mountainous desert habitat and have successfully adapted to it.
In very hot places, animals are generally nocturnal (active at night) or crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk) so that they can hunt for food in cooler temperatures. In places where the winters are harsh, some animals migrate to a warmer place and return in spring, some sleep through the winter in a warm den. In some habitats where there is a lot of competition for food, some animals have become arboreal, living and feeding in treetops and rarely coming to the ground where they are in danger from predators.
Some animals adapt by becoming very specialised, and develop special body features or habits such as eating a specific plant or animal that few others eat: for example, The giraffe's long neck and tongue are adaptations that allow it to graze at heights that other grazing animals cannot reach, so it does not compete for food.
On the African grasslands there are a number of large cats that compete for food, and each has adapted different ways of hunting: lions hunt in a group, the leopard uses amazing stealth and strength, the cheetah has incredible speed. The cheetah in particular has developed a number of special adaptations that enable it to hunt.
In South American forests, macaws and toucans eat nuts, and have developed big strong beaks to crack open the tough shells of Brazil nuts.
Leafcutter ants climb tall trees and cut small pieces of leaves which they carry back to their nest and bury. The combination of the leaves and the ants' saliva encourages the growth of a fungus, which is the only food these ants eat.
Meerkats have dark rings around their eyes to help them see in strong sunshine: their survival depends on them spotting danger.
The aye aye has a long thin finger so it can reach inside thin sticks to pull out grubs hidden inside.
Plant adapt too
Plants also adapt, for example, to survive in areas of low rainfall, or temperature extremes. A common adaptation in desert plants is the development of ways to store water in the roots, stems, leaves or fruit. Plants that store water in this way are called succulents, one of which is the cactus. Some plants have developed very long roots that go deep into the ground to reach underground water. Others have developed spreading root systems lying just below the surface and stretching widely. This gives the plant many tiny roots that capture water when it rains. The Australian mulga has small leaves that grow upwards so that they funnel rainwater down the trunk to the roots, which are thickly gathered close to the base.
Another plant adaptation is seen in the leaves or size of the plant. Desert plants limit water loss through their leaf surface by the size, sheen, or texture of their leaves. In the tundra region, plants tend to be low-growing to survive the bitter cold and strong winds.
Deciduous trees are an adaptation to habitat: they shed their leaves in order to survive a bitter winter, and grow new ones in spring.
Conifers have thin, needle-shaped leaves that don't freeze in winter like broad leaves do, and their branches slope downwards so that snow slides off instead of breaking branches.
Some leaves are 'drip tips': they hang downward and end in a point that helps rainwater drip down to the plant's roots.
Biome is a term that groups areas of the world that have a particular climate and vegetation. Animals and plants adapt to those climatic conditions.
Read more about plant and animal adaptations to their habitats in the kidcyber biome pages:
Watch a video about adaptations for survival in the coldest place on earth:
Watch this video with simple information about adaptations in animals and plants