Animal Adaptations

Activities at the Understand Level

Learners explain, summarize, discuss, give examples, review, compare, paraphrase, predict, outline, infer, and make sense out of information

Read a nonfiction book about an animal of your choice and write a book report summarizing what you learned about the animal and its adaptations.
Choose 5 animals and explain how their feet are uniquely adapted to their environment.
When animals cannot adapt to changes in their environment, they become extinct. What are 5 extinct animals that were not successful in their adaptions? (Of course, many animals became extinct because they could not adapt to HUMANS and to humans causing the loss of their habitat.)
Hibernation Activity
During cold winter months, it is difficult for some animals to endure cold temperatures, and it is also difficult for them to find food. Hibernation is an adaptation for many mammals and reptiles that allows them to survive much of the winter season.  During the coldest winter months, many animals find a place such as a cave or deep burrow where they will hibernate.  This keeps them protected from cold temperatures and also from predators.  During the months before hibernation, animals eat large amounts of food to build up a thick layer of fat on their bodies.  While they are sleeping, their bodies use the layer of fat to keep warm, and the fat provides them with the nutrients that they need.

Hibernating animals fall into deep sleep, their heart rate slows down, and their body temperature lowers all of which enable their bodies to use very little energy. They sleep until the weather warms and they can emerge, find food, and resume their regular activities.  A few animals are only partial hibernators; they occasionally wake up during the winter, come out from hiding place, and look for food or water. This partial hibernation is called torpor.

Become an internet researcher!  Find one interesting fact about how the following animals hibernate:

  • Black bear
  • Grizzly bear
  • Hedgehog
  • Chipmunk
  • Red-sided garter snake
  • Woodchuck – also called a groundhog
  • Bat
  • Skunk
  • Marmot
  • Wood frog

Here are some resources you might use:

Migration Activity
An effective way that animals adapt to their environment is through migration.  Many animals travel from one habitat to another in order to avoid cold or warm temperatures, find food, and find a suitable place to raise their young.  Many birds, butterflies, whales, and fish migrate to warmer climates every year.
Monarch Butterflies
Monarch butterflies migrate thousands of miles every winter.  In the winter, to what area of the world do most monarch butterflies migrate to?
Caribou (Reindeer)
In the winter, caribou leave the arctic region and migrate south to warmer areas.  Besides migrating to avoid cold, cold weather, why else do caribou move south?
Every year in Africa, from July to October, about two millions wildebeests travel from Tanzania to Kenya. Wildebeest don’t migrate to avoid cold or warm weather.  Why do they migrate?
Gray Whales
During the spring and summer, thousands of gray whales make their home in the Bering Sea off the west coast of Alaska.  In September, when it get colder, the gray whales begin a migration journey of about 6000 miles.  What warm area of the world do they migrate to in order to give birth to their young?  (When they are born, baby gray whales are about 15 feet long and weight about 1000 pounds!)
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds
These tiny birds weigh only 1/8 of an ounce, and yet they are able to migrate huge distances each winter as they leave North America and fly towards warmer weather.  What warmer area of the world do ruby-throated hummingbirds migrate to?
Camouflage Activity
To protect themselves from predators, some animals have developed physical adaptations that allow them to blend in with their surroundings so that predators cannot see them.  This adaptation is called camouflage.

Some animals have developed camouflage physical adaptations that help them escape from predators.  And some animals are camouflaged so that they can be better predators!

Desert Animals
Look at pictures of some desert animals. Why do you think that many animals that live in the desert are light brown in color?
Blending In
How do you blend in to a forest with its many different colors?  Many forest animals or animals that live in tall grasslands have spots or stripes on their fur.  The spots and stripes mimic the shadows that fall through leafy or grassy areas and make the animals difficult to see. List some striped or spotted animals and the habitat that they live in.
Crab Spider
Crab spiders don’t build webs to catch their prey.  What do they do instead? If you were looking in your garden, why might it be difficult to see a crab spider?
Three-Toed Sloth
What is an interesting camouflage that a three-toed sloth in South America has that makes it difficult to see in trees?  How are their feet adapted to living in trees?
Harp Seals
What adaptation do baby harp seals have that help them blend in?

Why Are They Camouflaged?
Some animals have defensive camouflage which means that they use their camouflage to blend in and hide from predators. Some animals have aggressive camouflage which means that they use their ability to blend in so that they can be better predators and surprise their prey and catch them more easily.

Which form of camouflage (defensive or aggressive) do the following animals make use of?

  • lion
  • sloth
  • mountain lion
  • gecko
  • polar bear
  • katydid
  • alligator

Amazing Camouflage
There are some animals who can actually change their color from day to day.  This is a special kind of camouflage.  They change their color:
  • to hide from predators
  • to be able to catch their own prey more easily
  • to attract a mate
  • to communicate information to others of their kind
  • to scare or confuse a predator

Find information on the following animals and decide which of the above reasons apply to the animal changing its color:

  • gray tree frog
  • snowshoe hare
  • cuttlefish
  • mimic octopus
  • golden tortoise beetle
  • chameleon

Mimicry/Imitation Activity
Some animals have an interesting adaptation that allows them to hide from predators or even to scare predators.  They pretend to be something else!  This is called mimicry or imitation and is a type of camouflage.   A sea horse’s body mimics the shape, size, color, and texture of many of the coral reefs where they live.

Locate some pictures of the animals below that successfully mimic something else.  Describe what you think these animals are mimicking or imitating.

  • Owl butterfly
  • King snake
  • Katydid
Changing Seasons Activity
Animals adapt to changing seasons and changing temperatures in a variety of ways.
  • Some animals migrate to different areas of the world
  • Some animals eat large amounts in the summer and autumn and add layers of fat to their bodies to protect from cold weather
  • Some animals grow extra thick fur to shield from cold temperatures
  • Some animals hibernate
  • Some animals estivate

Explain how each of these animals adapts to changing seasons and temperatures:

  • gray squirrel
  • woodchuck—also known as a groundhog
  • black bear
  • jumping mouse
  • eastern chipmunk
  • striped skunk
  • rattlesnake
  • red-sided garter snake
  • ladybug
  • mourning cloak butterfly
  • brown bat
  • red bat
  • leopard frog
  • snapping turtle
  • ruby-throated hummingbird
Exploring Animal Adaptations Activity
Explore the following websites and use the questions below each website to guide your exploration.
What adaptations do giraffes’ tongues have to help them be successful in their eating habits?
Caribou, sometimes called reindeer, live in the arctic and mostly eat lichen during the winter months.  Lichen is a fungus-like plant that grows on rocks and flat areas.  What adaptation do caribou have in their stomachs that help them digest lichen? 
Spotted Hyena
African hyenas are known for eating every part of an animal and leaving no leftovers.  What adaptations do the teeth of hyenas have that enables them to eat an entire zebra?
What adaptation do the tongues of chameleons have that help them to catch prey?
Mountain Goats
How are the feet of mountain goats well adapted to living in a rocky or steep terrain?
How is the body of a hippopotamus adapted so that it can see even though most of its body is underwater?
Desert Animals
Many desert animals are nocturnal.  How does being nocturnal help an animal survive in the desert?
Polar Bears
How are polar bears adapted to living in cold weather?  What is special about their fur?
How are the front paws of raccoons adapted to help them eat?
What physical adaptations do hedgehogs have that help them scare away predators?
Slender-snouted Crocodile
How are crocodiles well adapted for life in the water?
Eyelash Viper
How are the scales of an eyelash viper adapted to living in trees?
Fennec Fox
What are some behavior and physical adaptations of a fennec fox that allow it to survive in the north African desert?
Sandhill Cranes
Scroll down to the Adaptation section.  What are the adaptations of a sandhill crane’s beak that helps it be successful?
Bald Eagles
What adaptation do eagles have to their skulls that allows them to clearly see their prey, even in bright sunlight?
What physical adaptation does an armadillo have that makes it difficult for a predator to hurt it?
Red Foxes
How is the hearing of a red fox adapted to help it catch food?
What obvious physical adaptation do skunks have that keeps predators away?  Explain how that adaptation works.
Macaws are colorful parrots that live in Central and South America.  They have large, powerful beaks.  How do their beaks help them be successful in their habitats?
Meerkats live together in large groups.  They have a behavioral adaptation that allows most of the group to forage for insects to eat without worrying about predators.  What is this behavioral adaptation?
How are the mouths and teeth of pythons adapted to swallowing large prey?
Snowshoe Hare
Snowshoe hares got their name from its large back feet.  How are this hare’s back feet an adaptation for the environment in which it lives?
Hermit Crab
The body of a hermit crab is very soft and vulnerable to predators. What adaptive behavior has a hermit crab developed to keep it safe?
Giant Anteater
Explain how the tongue of a giant anteater has an adaptation to help it eat ants.
Most bats are nocturnal which means that they are active at night.  They also do not have very good eyesight.  So how are they able to safely navigate through the night sky and also find plenty of food at night?  Instead of keen eyesight, what physical adaptation do bats have that allows them to fly at night?  Explain how this adaptation works.
Sea Otters
Sea otters spend almost their entire lives in water. They eat, sleep, and even have their babies in water. How is their fur adapted to keep them warm?
Cane Toads
If captured by a predator, what special adaptation does a cane toad have that makes the predator want to spit it out?
Working Together
Some animals live in groups to protect themselves from predators.  Predators will seldom attack animals that are part of a tight group; they usually only attack stray animals that have separated from the larger group.  What animals can you think of that protect themselves by living in a large group?  Some animals also hunt in a group which makes it more likely that they will be successful in catching and killing prey.  What animals can you think of that hunt in groups?