Adaptations in Biology Examples

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Adaptation Biology Examples

Did you know that dogs are actually descendants of wolves? Long ago, people began domesticating wolves, gradually transforming them from wild animals into hunting partners and companions. Through the domestication process, wolves adapted to live with humans. Though a shaking chihuahua is a far cry from a fierce wolf, dogs still possess many of the adaptations that allow wolves to thrive in the wild.    

Adaptations are traits that increase or decrease the fitness of an organism. In other words, adaptations either help or hinder the ability of an organism to survive. Adaptations are genetically controlled and therefore can be passed on to successive generations.

Let’s take a look at some examples of adaptations from different types of organisms.

Adaptations Snake

Adaptations can be sorted into three types.


For example, turtles have a hard protective shell.


Many animals travel in packs which help individuals alert others of danger.


Female mammals produce milk for their young which increases the chance of their offspring surviving.

desert plants

Desert plants live in a harsh environment where water is scarce. As a result, desert plants have many adaptations that enable them to collect or retain water efficiently. For example, some desert plants have short root systems that spread out over wide areas to collect as much water as possible during rain showers. Other desert plants have developed long tap roots that dive deep into the ground in search of water far beneath the surface. Most desert plants have waxy leaves that retain water inside the plant and prevent water from evaporating in the hot sun.

human body

The human body also presents many adaptations. For example, humans have a large number of sweat glands that allow us to cool off and survive in hot environments. In high altitude locations where oxygen levels are low, it appears that human bodies can evolve over time to use oxygen more efficiently. While most people would feel sick in the Tibetan mountains due to lack of oxygen, the bodies of the Tibetan people are oxygen-converting machines. 


A euglena is a single-celled protist. These little protists adapted to become mixotrophs, meaning they can act as an autotroph and a heterotroph. Autotrophs are capable of producing their own food from inorganic substances. Euglenas are photoautotrophs, which means they have chloroplasts that allow them to carry out photosynthesis and make food from sunlight. Heterotrophs, on the other hand, must eat other organisms for food. Euglenas are also classified as heterotrophs because they feed on living organisms, such as bacteria and algae. 


Sloths are famous for moving slow and hanging out in trees. They also have many adaptations that increase their fitness. For example, they have an extremely slow metabolism. Sloths' diet primarily consists of leaves. Leaves do not contain much energy, but a sloth’s slow metabolism enables the sloth to store energy from its food for long periods of time. In addition, leaves are hard to digest, but sloths have a complex stomach that breaks down and ferments leaves efficiently.


Owls are very successful birds of prey with many helpful adaptations. Here is a brief list: their feathers are designed for silent flight. Their eyes are full of rods which gives them extraordinary night vision. They have tufts that resemble twigs and branches and allow them to blend into their surroundings. Finally, they have the ability to turn their heads 270 degrees in each direction. You can’t sneak up on an owl!

Quick reminder: an adaptation is an inheritable trait that increases an organism's ability to survive and reproduce in its given environment. 


Cuttlefish are masters of camouflage. They practice adaptive camouflage which means they can change their color and texture based on their surroundings. Cuttlefish use specialized skin cells, called chromatophores, that act as color “pixels” on their skin and change the color and design of their body.


Tarantulas have the ability to use hairs on their abdomen as a defense mechanism. When tarantulas are attacked or feel threatened, they kick their back legs, sending the hairs on their abdomen hurtling towards their attacker. If successful, these barbed hairs will hurt and irritate the predator’s eyes and nose. 


Opossums have the ability to play dead. When attacked, they will act and even smell like a dead animal by laying on the ground and releasing a smelly fluid from their backside. The opossum appears stiff and lifeless which hopefully discourages attackers.

So, as a recap: dogs, which descended from wolves, still possess many of the characteristics that help wolves survive and thrive in the wild, such as a keen sense of smell and good night vision. 

Desert plants have waxy leaves that keep water trapped inside the plant, enabling the plant to survive in extremely dry climates. 

A sloth’s slow metabolism enables it to conserve energy from its leaf diet. 

Cuttlefish use specialized skin cells, called chromatophores, to blend into their surroundings and hide from predators. 

The characteristics of these animals have something in common: they help the animal survive in its environment and give the animal a chance to live long enough to reproduce. These helpful characteristics are called adaptations.

Related Links

Biomes of the World

Longest living insect pet

Three Domains of Life


Life Science Review


Post a Comment

Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top