Amazing Animal Adaptations
From feathers to fur, camouflage to resource conservation, human or animal – we all must adapt to survive. It just so happens that animals have a multitude of amazing ways to do so.
Adaptations are genetic mutations that help organisms survive in the wild. Due to the helpful nature of the mutation, it gets passed down from one generation to the next. As more and more organisms inherit the mutation, the mutation becomes just a normal aspect of the species. At that point, the mutation has evolved into an adaptation.
An adaptation can be structural, meaning it’s a physical part of the organism, or an adaptation can also be behavioral, affecting the way an organism acts.
In the freckled porcupinefish’s case, being cute is not an actual adaptation – but its impressive inflating sure is.
The defense mechanism is a physical adaptation cultivated in order to deter predators from attacking. If threatened, porcupinefish (similar to puffer fish and burr fish) will gulp water or air and then inflate their extremely flexible stomachs, in many cases doubling their size, thus reducing the range of potential predators to those with much bigger mouths.
The process of puffing, however, is extremely stressful to the animal. If this ever occurs to one of our fish here at the Aquarium, we take note and monitor the animal until it returns to its normal size.
A second defense mechanism is provided by the fish’s sharp spines, which radiate outward when the fish is inflated. Other marine creatures that have adapted inflation as a means of defense include the swell shark, a carpet shark that dwells in Pacific waters off the coast of California.
Another amazing animal adaptation you can see in action at the Aquarium is the hair on our North American River Otters.
If you’ve come to see them lately, you might’ve wondered how Merlin and his new female companion could possibly swim when the degrees are dipping into the 40s – it’s all thanks to that thick, sleek coat of fur.
The river otter is almost impervious to cold because of an outer coat of coarse guard hairs, plus a dense undercoat that helps to waterproof the animal by trapping a layer of air against the otter’s skin.
So, we have great defensive deterrents, an environmental adaptation – what about nutritional necessities? Enter: birds.
Just as in the case of sharp teeth, large, strong beaks are often an adaptation used to help an animal eat. However, big – often sharp – beaks can be a feature of both carnivores and herbivores.
If you’ve visited our Eagle Pass exhibit, you’ve gotten a glimpse of Mortimer, our Turkey Vulture. Morty’s sharp, hooked beak is ideally designed for tearing flesh from the carrion she feeds on.
Similarly, the sizeable beak of the macaw has been adapted to help it crack open large, tough-shelled nuts. Our Green-Winged Macaw Zeppo and Military Macaw Kogi excel at (and thoroughly enjoy) cracking open the thick shells of Brazil nuts and walnuts and chowing down on the meaty insides.
Defensive mechanisms, insulating fur, enhanced beaks – and we’re barely even scratching the surface of animal adaptations! Delve deeper into the world of adaptations – not to mention exaptations, speciation, coadaptation, mimicry, and more here: http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/encyclopedia/adaptation/?ar_a=1
Come visit our Aquarium’s amazing, adaptive animals to learn more about them firsthand!