Do you know how it is possible for so many different kinds of animals living worldwide to inhabit so many different types of places? The answer is “adaptation.” Adaptation is physical or behavioral characteristics that help an animal survive in its habitat, be it in any environment on the Earth.
Animals develop these adaptations over long periods, possibly generations, to match their environment. The process of natural selection means that animals with traits that help them survive are more likely to live and pass on those traits to their offspring.
These adaptations allow animals to get food, stay safe, and reproduce within that specific habitat. Without their transformations, the species could not thrive in that environment. Let’s talk here about some fantastic animal adaptations.
Adaptations for Self-Defense
Physical adaptations are crucial for self-protection for animals closer to the bottom of the food chain. Let’s quickly take a quick trip worldwide to see some fantastic animals’ abilities to keep from becoming prey.
1. Skinny African Spiny Mice
African spiny mice are the perfect prey for desert animals with tiny bodies and thin skin. But their skin’s thinness is an effective adaptation that allows these mice to heal almost immediately.
African spiny mice, specifically Acomys kempi and Acomys percivali, have brittle skin and can be easily torn. This evolutionary adaptation allows them to escape predators by jettisoning whole patches of skin when caught or bitten.
While other mice may die from injuries after a bout with a fox or owl, African spiny mice can regenerate skin tissue, hair follicles, and fur rather than replace it with scar tissue to heal much more quickly than any other mammal.
2. Salamanders Regrow Limbs
Salamanders are remarkable creatures. One of the most famous salamander species is the axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum), found in lakes near Mexico City. If one of these amphibians loses a finger, it grows back. Furthermore, if you chop away a piece of the heart or spinal cord, it will regenerate.
Perhaps they can even regrow a leg bitten off by a hungry predator. Even the 30-centimeter-long reproductive adult retains features of its youthful phase throughout its lifecycle. The prominent gills protruding from the back of its head are retained from the axolotl’s larval phase. It never leaves the water, which is unusual for an amphibian.
3. Meerkats Coloring
The meerkat (Suricata suricatta) lives in the savanna biome of predators. They live in colonies, with one meerkat as a lookout for the rest of the group. Meerkats have unique eye markings lining their eyes that help provide extra protection by enabling better vision in strong sunlight.
In addition, they have dark fur around their eyes that reduces glare from the sun. Scanning long distances through the savanna sun is nothing for these little animals. They can see danger from every angle – even before the predators spot them!
4. Pufferfish Expand
Pufferfish, or blowfish, are easy targets for predators as they are slow and easy to spot in the ocean. However, if a predator gets too close, the pufferfish can quickly ingest water and air, making them several times larger than their standard size.
The notably missing bone and fin features are due to the pufferfish’s specialized defense mechanism, expanding by sucking in water through an oral cavity. And if that doesn’t scare a predator away, the pufferfish releases poison tetrodotoxin, which makes them taste bad and can kill a larger fish.
5. Red-Spotted Purple Butterflies Mimic Pipevine Swallowtails
It’s challenging to identify the iridescent red-spotted purple butterflies from pipeline swallowtails at a glance. The lookalike pipevine swallowtail is toxic to its would-be predators. The red-spotted purple is palatable but has a color pattern that mimics the toxic species. The main difference is pipevine swallowtails are poisonous, while red-spotted purple butterflies are not.
Their mimicry of the more toxic butterflies keeps red-spotted purples safe from birds mistaking them for their foul-tasting counterparts.
Predators avoid both of them on sight. The larvae also use coloration to avoid being eaten — resemble unappetizing bird droppings!
Adaptations to Catch Prey
Apex predators have adapted uniquely to ensure they can hunt effectively, like hiding from their prey before striking. Others have developed the ability to survive, eating toxic animals to stay alive.
6. Kingsnakes are Immuned to Venom
Kingsnakes, also known as “kings,” eat other snakes, including highly venomous ones like rattlesnakes or cottonmouths. One bite from these smaller snakes would kill another predator.
But kingsnakes, which are non-venomous, have developed an immunity or tolerance to snake venom to eat prey that other predators can’t. In addition, kingsnakes possess enzymes that break down the toxins of rattlesnake venom, giving them natural resistance.
When agitated, California kingsnakes will coil their bodies to hide their heads, hiss, and rattle their tails, producing a similar sound to that of a rattlesnake’s rattle. Like a zebra, the California kingsnake’s coloration helps break up the snake’s body outline, making it less noticeable to predators.
7. Octopuses Change Color to Blend
Octopuses are extremely intelligent and skilled at escaping predators. The Atlantic pygmy octopus is one of 300 octopus species known to exist and can change its appearance to deter predators. When they can’t hide from a giant animal, they quickly change their color to blend into their surroundings.
Rapid camouflaging can make octopuses virtually disappear by looking similar to rocks, coral, or other sea animals. In addition, the high intelligence level allows it to find familiar, safe places easily.
8. Tigers Camouflage
Those beautiful stripes on tigers aren’t just decorations; they help them hide in shadowy jungles. The tiger’s striped coat helps them blend well with the sunlight filtering through the treetops to the jungle floor. Moreover, the tiger’s seamless camouflage to their surroundings is enhanced because the striping also helps break up their body shape, making them difficult to detect for unsuspecting prey.
The tiger’s sense of hearing is so sharp that it can hear infrasound, waves below the range of ordinarily audible sound (20 hertz). Tigers use infrasound to communicate over long distances or dense forest vegetation because the sound can pass through various mediums, such as trees and mountains.
Adaptations to Survive Harsh environments
Adaptations in animals help them live in extreme heat or cold habitats. Animals are also adapted to human intervention in their environment. These incredible animals have adapted physically and behaviorally to survive in their surroundings.
9. Camels are Meant For Deserts
Camels have successfully adapted to harsh desert environments over millions of years. Camels have long eyelashes (and a third eyelid) to keep sand out of their eyes and wide feet to distribute their weight evenly on the sand. They have thick fur in sun-facing parts of their body for shade and thin fur in other places to allow heat to escape their body to cool off quickly. Their hump is full of fat they can metabolize when no food or water is around.
10. Dorcas Gazelles Don’t Urinate
Dorcas gazelle is another desert-adapted animal in Northern Africa that can live very long without water. They extract water from the desert plants they eat and conserve their energy during the day. Dorcas gazelles even extract water before urinating, so their urine comes out as solid pellets of uric acid.
11. Wood Frogs Freeze Their Blood
Wood frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus) are the only frogs found north of the Arctic circle, one of the world’s most frigid locations. It freezes their blood during cold seasons due to an antifreeze-like chemical in their blood.
As a result, they can stop their hearts and form ice crystals inside their body, allowing them to withstand winter lows of -80 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, when spring arrives, the frogs thaw out and resume life as usual.
Adaptations to Pass on
Adaptations also allow animals to camouflage themselves, attract mates, catch prey more quickly, and stay alive in extreme temperatures. Animals adapted to their environments are more likely to mate and reproduce, perpetuating their species. These animals have unique ways of attracting mates and ensuring their babies stay alive.
12. Mating Dance of Birds of Paradise
Primarily located in New Guinea and eastern Australia, competition for mates with desirable traits is fierce among the birds of paradise. The unrivaled mating dance of male birds–of–paradise combines extreme feathers, dazzling colors, piercing sounds, and precise activities are all adaptations meant for a single function: to attract mates.
These colorful, strangely decorated male birds learn to perform mating dances at a young age. Female birds, more plainly colored to blend in with their surroundings, decide which male has the best traits for her offspring. The best dancer wins the mate.
13. Great White Shark Pups Are Huge
Some sharks lay eggs, while others give birth to two or more pups at a time. For example, great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias), one of the giant predatory sharks in the world, gestate for over a year before giving birth to three-foot-long pups.
At birth, a baby great white shark is already about 5 feet (1.5 meters) long; as it grows, it may reach up to four times that. Its mother does not need to care for the sheer size of a newborn after birth, as it is already a formidable killing machine. The pup (what a baby shark is called) will live at the top of the ocean’s food chain. But before it grows larger, the pup must avoid predators bigger than it is—including other great white sharks.