B1.4 - Independence and adaptation

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  • To survive and reproduce, organisms need a supply of materials from their surroundings and from other living organisms
  • Organisms have adaptations that enable them to survive in the conditions in which they normally live
  • Some organisms live in environments that are very extreme such as extremophiles which can be tolerant to high levels of salt, extreme temperatures or high pressures
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Adaptations and competition in animals


  • Animals that are adapted for cold evironments are often large with a small surface area:volume ratio. They have thick insulating layers of fat and fur
  • Animals that are adapted for hot, dry environments often include a large surface area:volume ration, thin fur, little body fat and behaviour patterns that avoid the heat of the day


  • Animals often compete with each other for food, territories and mates
  • Animals have adaptations that make them good competitors
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Adaptations and competition in plants


  • Plants lose water vapour from the surface of their leaves
  • Plant adaptations for surviving in dry conditions include reducing the surface area of the leaves, having water-storage tissues and having extensive root systems


  • Plants often compete with each other for lightspace and water and nutrients (minerals) from the soil
  • Plants have many adaptations that make them good competitors
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Environmental change

  • Changes in the environment affect the distribution of living organisms
  • Animals and plants are subjected to environmental changes which may be caused by living or non-living factors such as a change in a competitor, or in the average temperature or rainfall
  • Living organisms can be used as indicators of pollution:
    • Lichens can be used as air pollution indicators, particularly of the concentration of sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere
    • Invertebrate animals can be used as water pollution indictators and and used as indicators of the concentration of dissolved oxygen in water
  • Environmental changes can be measured using non-living indicators such as oxygen levels, temperature and rainfall
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