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The students will be able to compare the traits of species for physical abilities, instinctual behaviors, and specialized body structures that increase the survival of animals in a specific environment.
Science language students should use: inherited, environment, species, offspring, traits, variations, survival, instincts, population, specialized structure, organism, life cycle, parent organism, learned behavior
In order for animals to survive, they need to be able to adapt. In this lesson we will look at the types of adaptations animals can and do make. In a perfect world, animals would not need to adapt. However, with constant changes to their environment, animals must adapt or face extinction. Over time, animals that are better adapted to their environment survive and breed. Animals that are not well adapted to an environment may not survive. The characteristics that help a species survive in an environment are passed on to future generations. Those characteristics that don't help the species survive will slowly disappear. An adaptation or variation is a trait that makes an animal suited to its environment.
All organisms have adaptations that help them survive and thrive. Some adaptations are structural. Structural adaptations are physical features of an organism like the bill on a bird or the fur on a bear. This adaptation happens in the form of changing an animals genetic traits. The thick fur coat of an arctic fox is a structural adaptation. It helps protect it against the cold weather. The shape of a bird's beak, the number of fingers, color of the fur, the thickness or thinness of the fur, the shape of the nose or ears are all examples of physical adaptations which help different animals survive.
Other adaptations are behavioral or learned behavior (behavior that an organism must learn in order to survive.) Behavioral adaptations are the things organisms do to survive. It has to do with the things animals do to help them survive and compete in their environment. Some of these behaviors may be instinct (a natural or inherent aptitude, impulse, or capacity) and some may be learned. For example, birdcalls and migration are behavioral adaptations. For orangutans, building a nest correctly is a learned behavior. For proboscis monkeys, excellent swimming is an instinct, or a behavior that an organism is born with. Moving in large groups is also a behavioral adaptation; it helps protect the members of the group from predators.
Invitation to Learn:
"There is an imaginary animal, the WHATSIT. The WHATSIT lives in woods. Men and larger animals hunt it. Most WHATITS are born with white fur, making them easy to spot amongst the trees. Some WHATSITS are born with brown, speckled fur. These are far more difficult to spot. Since they are easier targets for hunters, far more white WHATITS are hunted and killed than speckled ones. Each time a speckled one mates with a white one, half the offspring is speckled. Eventually the amount of white furred ones available to breed is smaller than the number of speckled ones. More offspring are born with speckles than with white fur. This animal has adapted, and now the majority has speckled fur instead of white fur. Eventually the white furred ones will disappear altogether."
A. Understanding Structural and Behavioral Adaptations
B. Comparing Adaptations of two animalsSnowshoe Rabbit and Cottontail Rabbit
Start by writing the words "rabbit" and "hare" on the chalkboard and ask students to describe the differences and similarities of each animal. (Use a Venn Diagram to show the differences/similarities). Ask: "What are the similarities and differences between the rabbit and hare?"
Believe it or not, there are actually several differences between a rabbit and a hare. Physically, the hare has longer ears and hind legs. In general, the hare is just overall larger than a rabbit. They also have different lifestyles. The hare is a solitary animal, while the rabbit enjoys living in groups. The hare just makes a slight hole on top of the ground to sleep, while the wild rabbit prefers a burrow below ground. At birth, the hare is fully furred, has his eyes open and will hop within moments of being born. A baby rabbit is hairless and blind. It must adjust to this new world before it is ready to "hop around."
Now, write "snowshoe hare and cottontail rabbit" on the board. Following the same idea, ask the students what they know about these two mammals and write their answers on the board.
Use the following books:
Ask: Why is this beautiful rabbit called a hare? What characteristics do the two animals have that are similar and different?
Students work in groups to research and organize the information, recognizing the distinct characteristics of the snowshoe hare and the cottontail rabbit. Student purpose for this activity is to understand the adaptations that these two animals use for survival.
Use the following information to compare the two animals.
He is called a snowshoe hare because of the tracks his large feet leave in the snow. His toes can be spread out for balance, and the wide toe and slender heel track resembles a snowshoe impression.
In addition to his leaping abilities, the snowshoe hare has remarkable running and swimming skills. Thus, he is often able to avoid capture by a predator. One of the main differences is that snowshoe hares have larger back feet than cottontail rabbits; due to their larger hind feet they are able to sprint across slippery surfaces.
The cottontail rabbit is a stocky animal with large hind feet, long ears, and a short, fluffy tail that resembles a cotton ball. Its long, coarse coat varies in color from reddish‐brown to a black or grayish‐brown. The underparts are white. This is because rabbits feet are very furry, and they do not always leave clear tracks. Their front feet are pointy, unlike those of other rabbits. Cottontails have very keen sight and hearing. When danger is sensed, the animal will usually freeze in place until the danger has passed, but he will flush readily if approached too closely. Rabbits normally move slowly, in short hops or jumps, but when frightened they can achieve speeds up to 18 miles per hour over a short distance. They often zigzag to confuse a pursuing predator. Cottontails prefer to live and forage among the edges of open fields and meadows, areas of dense high grass, in wood thickets, along fencerows, forest edges and along the borders of marshy areas. Dense forests and thickets attract cottontails at high elevations, especially birch/red maple forests, hemlock and rhododendron areas within oak‐hickory forests, blueberries, mountain laurel and coniferous forests. Cottontails are largely nocturnal, active from early evening to late morning. In summer, cottontails feed almost entirely on tender grasses and herbs; crops such as peas, beans, and lettuce are also eaten. In winter, bark, twigs and the buds of shrubs and young trees are eaten. Cottontail rabbits can be difficult to track because of their shallow and furry track marks. However, how they move and leave their tracks is unique to how they run.
Student Reflection in Science Journals:
Provide time for the students to reflect in their journal/notebooks their understanding.
Activity Connected to the Lesson:
Camouflage: An Adaptation of Survival
Camouflage and protective coloration, natural selection, are important to animal survival. Natural selection is the process that makes sure that the animals and plants that are best adapted to their environment will survive and reproduce. It is often described as "survival of the fittest" because animals that don't suit their surroundings are more likely to die and not leave offspring. Some animals are always one color while others change with the season or material they are resting on. Other good animals to talk about for natural selection include: snakes, chameleons, and rabbits.
Ask: What is camouflage? (Camouflage uses two or more colors to create a matching pattern that let an organism blend into its surroundings.)
Ask: What is protective coloration? (Protective coloration is an adaptation in which color matching is used to match the background.)
Explore why the ability to change color with the seasons is so important to animals. The following simulation allows a hands‐on activity that strengthens the student understanding about camouflage as a survival adaptation.
Snowshoe Hare Simulation Objectives:
In this lab, you will simulate how predators locate prey in different environments. You will analyze how color affects an organism's ability to survive in certain environments.
Have students develop a set of "why do" questions about animals and plants and do research to find the answers. For example: Why do zebras have stripes? Why do roses have thorns?