Living creatures are collectively called as organisms. It is easy to find organisms all around us. We find spiders, dogs and cats inside our house; cattle, horses, birds, outside our house; fishes in ponds and streams, crabs and larger fishes in sea, whales and sharks in the oceans; leopards and panthers in the forests; camels in deserts; and polar bears and penguins in Antarctic regions.
On comparing deserts to snowy regions of Antarctic, these environments are extremely different to each other but yet, organisms exist in these environments. These organisms are designed or rather shaped in such a way that they adapt to the environmental conditions.
The sea and the desert are very different surroundings and we find very different kind of plants and animals in these two regions. Let us look at two very different kinds of organisms from the desert and the sea – a camel and a fish.
The body structure of a camel helps it to survive in desert conditions. Camels have long legs which help to keep their bodies away from the heat of the sand. They excrete small amount of urine, their dung is dry and they do not sweat. Since camels lose very little water from their bodies, they can live for many days without water.
There are so many kinds of fish, but all of them have the same shallow streamlined body so they can swim easily. Fish have slippery scales on their bodies that protect the fish and also help in easy movement through water. Fish have flat fins and tails that help them to change directions and keep their body balance in water. Gills present in the fish help them to use oxygen dissolved in water. Fishes have the ability to live in salt water of the sea as well as in fresh water of the ponds.
We see that the features of a fish help it to live inside water and the features of a camel help it to survive in a desert. We have taken only two examples from a very wide variety of animals and plants that live on the Earth. In all this variety of organisms, we will find that they have certain features that help them live in the surroundings in which they are normally found, be it very cold or hot climates and surroundings. The presence of specific features or certain habits, which enable a plant or an animal to live in its surroundings, is called adaptation. Different animals are adapted to their surroundings in different ways.
Adaptation does not take place in a short time. It takes thousands of years for living beings to adapt to its habitat. Those animals which cannot adapt to these changes die out, and only the adapted ones survive. Animals adapt to different conditions in different ways. The result is variety of organisms present in different habitats.
The term habitat refers to the surroundings where organisms live. The organisms depend for their food, water, air, shelter and other needs on their habitat. Habitat means a dwelling place (a home). Habitat includes both living and non-living components. Several kinds of plants and animals may share the same habitat. Plants and animals have different features that help them to survive in their own habitat.
Habitat can be terrestrial or aquatic.
The plants and animals that live on land are said to live in terrestrial habitats. Some examples of terrestrial habitats are forests, grasslands, deserts, coastal and mountain regions.
On the other hand, the habitats of plants and animals that live in water are called aquatic habitats. Ponds, swamps, lakes, rivers and oceans are some examples of aquatic habitats.
There are large variations in forests, grasslands, deserts, coastal and mountain regions located in different parts of the world. This is true for all aquatic habitats as well.
The components in a habitat are broadly classified into two types. They are biotic and abiotic components.
The living things such as plants and animals, in a habitat, are its biotic components.
Various non-living things such as rocks, soil, air and water in the habitat constitute its abiotic components. Sunlight and heat also form abiotic components of the habitat.
The abiotic components are very useful for the survival of the biotic components in a habitat. For example, sprouting is the first step where a new plant grows from a seed. The sprouting of a seed depends on abiotic components such as air, water, light and heat.
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