Plants and animals depend on each other and their physical environment for survival. All organisms have basic needs: food, shelter, water, and space. Some organisms, like humans, are able to meet those needs relatively easily, regardless of where they live.
Other organisms, however, may survive in only a limited area and are greatly affected by changes in their environment. That is because they have become well adapted to the place they live. A cactus, for example, is able to survive in the desert because it can withstand long periods with little to no water. Fish can live in oceans and rivers because their bodies developed structures called gills, which allow them to extract oxygen from the water so they can breathe. And other organisms, like polar bears and penguins that live in extremely cold places, have developed layers of fat (blubber) to insulate their bodies from the damaging cold of the frigid air and water in which they live.
All of these physical characteristics enable these organisms to survive where they live. These characteristics are sometimes referred to as adaptations. An adaptation is simply a change to the environmental conditions. Some of these changes can happen quickly or they may take thousands or millions of years. Either way, adaptations are an important reason for the survival and diversity of life throughout the earth.
Think About It
What does adaptation mean?
What are some examples of adaptations?
Why do you think adaptations are important?
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