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Adaptation Strategies Developed by Living Organisms

Writer: Beyza Kaya


Adaptation is the term used to describe all the features that arise through natural selection. These features increase the chances of an organism's survival in the environment in which it lives. These features are generated randomly and continuously within the population, but only become selected when suitable environmental conditions arise. As a result of the evolution of these features, we say that the organism has become 'adapted' to its environment. Living organisms develop different adaptation strategies depending on their environment, including the climate, predators, and prey. (Larsen, 2015; Alcock et all., 2009)


1- Physical adaptation


The first adaptation strategy is physical adaptation. Physical adaptations refer to features that organisms develop to make their physical characteristics and structures compatible with their environment. These adaptations increase the chances of survival and reproduction. Physical adaptations can range from external appearance to internal organs. Examples of physical adaptation include: (Somero et all., 1983)


Birds have powerful talons for capturing and carrying their prey. These talons allow them to tear apart the meat of their prey. Another example is camouflage, many creatures in nature have camouflage colors to blend in with their surroundings. For instance, owls that hunt at night may have feather colors resembling tree bark or leaves, enabling them to get closer to their prey. (Young, 1986)


Nextly, we have polar bears, which inhabit polar regions, and have a thick layer of fat and dense fur that provides insulation. This adaptation helps them survive in the cold climate. Additionally, marine mammals have special adaptations for life in water. Whales' flippers allow them to move swiftly in water, while seals have flippers and fur to maintain warmth underwater. (Miller et all., 2018)


2- Behavioral Adaptation


The second adaptation strategy is behavioral adaptation. Behavioral adaptations refer to the specialized behaviors developed by living organisms to adapt to their environments. These adaptations aim to make vital activities, such as feeding, reproduction, hunting, and avoiding threats, more efficient. Here are more detailed examples of behavioral adaptations:  (Miller et all., 2018)


Migration is a significant behavioral adaptation utilized by many bird species. This example involves birds traveling to regions where food sources change seasonally, allowing them to find more food. For instance, birds migrate south during the winter when food becomes scarce in northern regions, ensuring their survival and reproduction. (Perrings, 2005)


The other behavioral adaptation strategy is social cooperation. Animals that live in groups can cooperate socially to improve their hunting success. For example, wolf packs work together to increase their chances of capturing larger prey. Lions also work in groups to share their kills.  (Mawdsley et all., 2009)


There is also a camouflage behavior. We talked about this strategy in physical adaptations, but camouflage doesn't include only physical features but also behavioral features. Many animals exhibit hiding or camouflage behavior when they sense danger. This behavior helps them avoid predators or threats. For example, rabbits quickly retreat to their burrows when they sense approaching predators. 


3- Biochemical Adaptation


The third and last adaptation strategy is biochemical adaptation.


Biochemical adaptations reflect the ability of living organisms to respond to environmental pressures by altering their internal chemical processes and genetic structures. These adaptations help organisms quickly adapt to changes in their habitats. These adaptations aim to enhance the ability of organisms to acquire nutrients, develop resistance against toxic substances, and combat infections. Here are some examples to consider. Some bacterial species can develop resistance to antibiotics over time. This gives them an advantage in terms of survival against antibiotics. Additionally, certain plant species can thrive in saline soils. These plants have specialized roots that help them remove excess salt. Lastly, some insect species can metabolize toxins when feeding on poisonous plants. This ability allows them to access food sources that would otherwise be inaccessible. (Somero et all.,1983; Gaughan et all., 2019)


In summary, the adaptation strategies highlight the delicate interplay between living organisms and their habitats, which has been molded by millions of years of evolutionary development. As the environment transforms and evolves, organisms must also adapt to ensure their survival. Therefore, the study of adaptation not only clarifies the mechanisms that support life's diversity but also provides useful insights into resilience and survival in a constantly changing world.


References:


1- Larsen, L. (2015). Urban climate and adaptation strategies. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 13(9), 486-492.


2- Gaughan, J. B., Sejian, V., Mader, T. L., & Dunshea, F. R. (2019). Adaptation strategies: ruminants. Animal Frontiers, 9(1), 47-53.


3- Mawdsley, J. R., O’Malley, R. O. B. I. N., & Ojima, D. S. (2009). A review of climate‐change adaptation strategies for wildlife management and biodiversity conservation. Conservation Biology, 23(5), 1080-1089.


4- Perrings, C. (2005). Mitigation and adaptation strategies for the control of biological invasions. Ecological economics, 52(3), 315-325.


5- Miller, D. D., Ota, Y., Sumaila, U. R., Cisneros‐Montemayor, A. M., & Cheung, W. W. (2018). Adaptation strategies to climate change in marine systems. Global Change Biology, 24(1), e1-e14.


6- Young, B. A., Walker, B., Dixon, A. E., & Walker, V. A. (1989). Physiological adaptation to the environment. Journal of Animal Science, 67(9), 2426-2432.


7- Somero, G. N., Siebenaller, J. F., & Hochachka, P. W. (1983). Biochemical and physiological adaptations of deep-sea animals. The sea, 8, 261-330.


8- Alcock, J. (2009). Animal behavior: An evolutionary approach. Sinauer associates.


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