Let us look at some habitats, the abiotic factors of these, and the adaptations of animals to these habitats.
We discussed the abiotic factors of a desert and the adaptations in camels to these. What about other animals and plants that are found in deserts? Do they have the same kind of adaptations?
There are desert animals like rats and snakes, which do not have the long legs that the camel has. To stay away from the intense heat during the day, they stay in burrows deep in the sand as shown in the below figure. These animals come out only during the night, when it is cooler.
Figure shows some typical plants that grow in a desert. How are these adapted to the desert?
Bring a potted cactus and a leafy plant to the classroom. Tie polythene bags to any parts of the two plants. Leave the potted plants in the sun and observe after a few hours. What do you see? Do you notice any difference in the amount of water collected on the two polythene bags?
Desert plants lose very little water through transpiration. The leaves in desert plants are either absent, very small, or they are present in the shape of spines. This helps in reducing loss of water from the leaves through transpiration. The leaf-like structure you see in a cactus is, in fact, its stem . Photosynthesis in these plants is usually carried out by the stems. The stem is also covered with a thick waxy layer, which helps to retain water. Most desert plants have roots that go very deep into the soil for absorbing water.
These habitats are normally very cold and windy. In some areas, snowfall may take place in winters.
There is a large variety of plants and animals living in the mountain regions. If you live in a mountain region or have visited one, you may have seen a large number of such trees.
But, have you ever noticed such trees naturally growing in other regions?How are these trees adapted to the conditions prevailing in their habitat?
These trees are normally cone shaped and have sloping branches. The leaves of some of these trees are needle-like. This helps the rainwater and snow to slide off easily. There could be trees with shapes very different from those that are present on mountains. They may have different kind of adaptations to survive on the mountains.
Animals living in the mountain regions are also adapted to the conditions there . They have thick skin or fur to protect them from cold. For example, yaks have long hair to keep them warm. Snow leopard has thick fur on its body including feet and toes. This protects its feet from the cold when it walks on the snow. The mountain goat has strong hooves for running up the rocky slopes of the mountains.
As we go up in the mountainous regions, the surroundings change and we see different kinds of adaptations at different heights.
A lion lives in a forest or a grassland , is a strong animal that can hunt and kill animals like deer. It is light brown in colour. Have you ever noticed, how their eyes are placed in the face for these two animals? Are they in the front or on the side of the face? Lions have long claws in their front legs that can be withdrawn inside the toes. Do the features of a lion help it in any way to survive? It’s light brown colour helps it to hide in dry grasslands when it hunts for prey (animals to eat). The eyes in front of the face allow it to have a correct idea about the location of its prey.
A deer is another animal that lives in forests and grasslands. It has strong teeth for chewing hard plant stems of the forest. A deer needs to know about the presence of predators ( animals like lion that make it their prey ) in order to run away from them and not become their prey. It has long ears to hear movements of predators. The eyes on the side of its head allow it to look in all directions for danger. The speed of the deer helps them to run away from the predators.
There are many other features of a lion, a deer or other animals and plants that help them to survive in their habitat.
We already discussed how fish adapts to live in the sea. Many sea animals have streamlined bodies to help them move easily in water. There are some sea animals like squids and octopus, which do not have this streamlined shape. They stay deeper in the ocean, near the seabed and catch any prey that moves towards them. However, when they move in water they make their body shapes streamlined. These animals have gills to help them use oxygen dissolved in water.
There are some sea animals like dolphins and whales that do not have gills. They breathe in air through nostrils or blowholes that are located on the upper parts of their heads. This allows them to breathe in air when they swim near the surface of water. They can stay inside the water for a long time without breathing. They come out to the surface from time to time, to breathe in air. Did you ever see this interesting activity of dolphins in television programme or films on ocean life?
Have you seen plants growing in ponds, lakes, rivers and even some drains? Go on a field trip to a nearby pond, if possible, and try to draw the kinds of plants that are seen there. How are the leaves, stems and roots of these plants placed?
Some of these plants have their roots fixed in the soil below the water . In terrestrial plants, roots normally play a very important role in the absorption of nutrients and water from the soil. However, in aquatic plants, roots are much reduced in size and their main function is to hold the plant in place.
The stems of these plants are long, hollow and light. The stems grow up to the surface of water while the leaves and flowers, float on the surface of the water.
Some aquatic plants are totally submerged in water. All parts of such plants grow under water. Some of these plants have narrow and thin ribbon-like leaves. These can bend in the flowing water. In some submerged plants, leaves are often highly divided, through which the water can easily flow without damaging them.
Frogs usually have ponds as their habitat. Frogs can stay both inside the pond water as well as move on land. They have strong back legs that help them in leaping and catching their prey. They have webbed feet which help them swim in water.
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