Adaptations Handout

Adaptations: Traits and Behaviors for Survival
An adaptation is a physical trait or behavior that helps an organism better survive and reproduce
in its environment. Adaptations result from natural selection acting on variation within a population. In
other words, the best adapted organisms survive and pass on their traits to the next generation.
Adaptations help organisms in many ways. These include coping with climate, obtaining food or water,
finding mates, helping with reproduction, escaping predators, and dispersing seeds.
Organisms use many strategies to adapt to their environment. Four strategies are described below:
1. Camouflage, which is also called crypsis or cryptic
coloration, is an adaptation whereby the color or shape of the
organism blends with its surroundings. This adaptive
strategy helps prey escape predators. For example, walking
stick bugs resemble the twigs of the trees that they rest in.
Predators also use camouflage to sneak up on their prey.
Crab spiders, large cats, and praying mantises are examples
of predators that camouflage.
Disruptive coloration is the color patterns or markings that
break up a solid outline of an animal’s body. The shape of
the organism is disrupted so that it is difficult to see and
recognize the organism. The stripes on a zebra are an
example of disruptive coloration. When a zebra is found in a
herd, predators cannot single out one animal because the
stripes of the herd blend together.
3. Mimicry is when one species is similar in
appearance to another. The scarlet king snake is
non-venomous, however, because it looks very
similar to the venomous eastern coral snake,
predators avoid the scarlet king snake as well.
4. Warning Coloration, which is also called aposematism, is used by
organisms with bright flashy colors. These colors tell other organisms
that they are poisonous and dangerous. Poisonous tree frogs are often
brightly colored to warn predators that they are poisonous.
Adaptations Types and Examples
Coping with Climate
Obtaining Food and Water
Heavy fur
Spiders build webs
Thick fat layer
Body structures that allow organisms to
migrate (Ex. Canadian geese have wings
with hollow bones and feathers)
Giraffes have long necks to reach food in
Frog’s tongue is attached to the front for
quick movements to catch food
Evergreen leaf shape
Deciduous plants cut chlorophyll
production and drop their leaves in the
Plants have root hairs to help absorb
Some plants have broad leaves to help
collect sunlight for photosynthesis
Herons have long legs to wade in the
water to catch fish and crayfish
Finding a Mate/Reproduction
Escaping Predators
Coloration of feathers help birds find
A rabbit’s leg structure is good for running
Quills of porcupines
Plants attract pollinators through various
methods: bright colors and scents
Thorns of rosebush
Smells are used to attract deer
Skunk’s odor glands produce a smell
Sound are used by many species of
whales to attract mates
Coloration that helps to camouflage an
Bad taste of certain butterflies
Poisonous frogs and venomous snakes
Seed Dispersal
Burs have hooks that allow them to stick
to fur and feathers for animals to
transport seeds
Wings of a maple seed and parachute
shape of milkweed seeds allow wind to
carry them to a new location
Seeds encased in fruits are eaten by
animals and dispersed as the animal