Animal Adaptations

An adaptation is something about an animal that makes it possible for it to live in a particular place and in a particular way. It may be a physical adaptation, like the size or shape of the animal's body, or the way in which its body works. Or it may be the way the animal behaves. Each adaptation has been produced by evolution.

As the environment changes, animals that cannot adapt die out, and only the adapted ones survive to produce babies. Because babies are usually more or less like their parents, the whole species soon contains only animals that are adapted to the new environment.

An animal's environment consists of many different things. The climate is important. Whether it is hot, cold, dry, or wet will have an effect on all the creatures that live in a particular place.

Another important part of an animal's environment is what kinds of food plants grow in it. The other animals that live there also have an effect. If there are predators around, the prey animals will have to learn to defend themselves or run fast to escape.

These adaptations make it possible for a great variety of creatures to live and thrive on earth. animals adapt to the natural world.

Animals in the wild can only live in places they are adapted to. They must have the right kind of habitat where they can find the food and space they need.


Places To Go    People To See    Things To Do    Teacher Resources    Bibliography

Places To Go

The following are places to go (some real and some virtual) to find out about animal adaptations.

Alaska's Cold Desert
At first glance, arctic Alaska may appear to be a barren wasteland. Yet, in reality, this cold desert teems with life. Myriad plants and animals are native to this treeless plain above the Arctic Circle.
Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Carnegie Museum of Natural History collects and cares for specimens and artifacts that document the history of life on Earth.
Visit your school or public library and check out the book Verdi by Janell Cannon. It's about a green tree python who discovers that it IS easy to be green when you consider the alternatives.
Wildlife Conservation Society
You can learn about the different ways that animals move, how they protect themselves from predators, and more.

Back to Top


People To See

Arctic Studies Center
Visit with biologist Doug Siegel-Causey. He knows all about animals of the Arctic region.
Ask your questions about animal adaptations. From this page, scroll down and choose zoology for the area of science pertaining to your question.
The Crocodile Hunter
By krykie, read more about Steve Irwin, the former director of Australia Zoo in Queensland, Australia, and host of that wild series.
Discover important animal facts. There are many species of monkeys in South America and Africa. There are even monkeys in Asia.
National Wildlife Federation's Ranger Rick
Rick and his friends tackle many threats to wildlife and the environment. They get up close to nature and encourage kids to do the same.

Back to Top


Things To Do

All About Sharks
Sharks never run out of teeth. A shark's jaw is lined with many rows of teeth. A shark may go through thousands of teeth during its lifetime. It an adaptation for an animal that depends on its teeth for survival.
Ball Python
How are large snakes such as pythons able to swallow prey that is bigger than their own heads? It's because their jaws are adapted to do so. The bones of their mouth are loosely joined to their skulls.
Find out how beavers are adapted for underwater work.
A bobcat's canine teeth, the four long, sharp pointed teeth in the front of their mouths, are spaced just exactly far enough apart to separate the vertebrae of rabbits so that they can kill them with one bite.
Desert Animal Survival
Find out how animals adapt to desert conditions. The two main adaptations that desert animals must make are how to deal with lack of water and how to deal with extremes in temperature.
The Dinosauria
Why did dinosaurs disappear? Was it because they were unable to adapt to the changing climate of the earth?
Frogs are carnivores. They eat insects, spiders, worms, snails, fish, and even small rodents like mice. When a frog spots a tasty meal, it flicks out its long, sticky tongue. For more amazing animal adaptations, check out the book Exploding Ants: Amazing Facts About How Animals Adapt by Joanne Settel.
Journey North/South
Many animals adapt by moving, they do not live in the same place all year round. In the winter, they migrate to a warmer place where there is more food. In the spring, they return to breed. Learn more about animal migrations of all kinds from the website.
Naked Mole Rat
Moles are among the best diggers in the animal world. Their bodies are made/adapted for digging! They actually have shovel-shaped hands and long nails, and their chest muscles are very strong to push dirt.
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
Elk make slight cracking noises when they walk. Those noises are an adaptation that help them keep in touch with each other. When elk hear knuckle-cracking, they know it's another elk nearby and not a predator lurking around.
San Diego Zoo - Camels
Camels have made adaptations to suit itself to desert life. Describe the unique characteristics of a camel's body temperature (no other mammal can do what a camel does with its body temperature).
If spiders build sticky webs to trap their prey, why don't the spiders themselves stick to their webs? It's because of a special adaptation that they have. Find out what it is.
What Groups of Animals Are Called
One of the ways that some mammals have adapted to their environment is to live in groups because it is true that there is safety in numbers. Learn about the collective nouns for different kinds of animal groups. Did you know that a group of zebras is called a dazzle of zebras and a group of giraffes is called a tower of giraffes?
World Wildlife Foundation
How are the teeth, throat, stomach, and forepaws of giant pandas adapted to what they eat? How is the fur of giant pandas adapted for where they live? The WWF knows all about pandas.

Back to Top


Teacher Resources

Back to Top



  • Cochrane, Jennifer. Nature. New York, N.Y.: Warwick Press, 1991.
  • Evans, Lisa Gollin. An elephant never forgets its snorkel: how animals survivewithout tools and gadgets. New York: Crown Publishers, 1992.
  • Gross, Michael. Life on the edge: amazing creatures thriving in extreme environments. New York: Plenum Trade, c1998.
  • Maynard, Thane. Animal Inventors. New York: Franklin Watts, 1991.
  • National Geographic Society. Secrets of Animal Survival. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, c1983.
  • Penny, Malcolm. Animal Adaptations. Bookwright Press: New York, 1989.
  • Perham, Molly and Rowe, Julian. Wildlife. Franklin Watts: New York, 1996. 
  • Settel, Joanne. Exploding Ants: Amazing Facts About How Animals Adapt. Atheneum: New York, 1998.