Every organism has certain features or characteristics that allow it to live successfully in its habitat. These features are called adaptations, and we say that the organism is adapted to its habitat. Organisms within a community compete with each other for limited resources, including water and space. Plants also compete with each other for light and minerals.
The meaning of key words used to describe adaptations
WordMeaning Environment all the conditions that surround a living organism Habitat the place where an organism lives Population all the members of a single species that live in a habitat Community all the populations of different organisms that live together in a habitat Ecosystem a community and its habitat
A pond ecosystem consists of a pond habitat inhabited by aquatic plants, waterside plants, microorganisms, minnows and herons. The organisms together make up a community of living things.
Organisms live in different habitats need different adaptations. Animals and plants may have specific features that adapt them to their environment: these include barbs and spines, poisons and warning colours that deter predators and herbivores. Some harmless species may even resemble a poisonous or dangerous species to increase their chances of survival.
Habitats have limited amounts of the resources needed by living organisms and organisms can only survive if they can get enough of these resources, so they must compete for resources with other organisms. If they are unsuccessful and cannot move to another habitat, they will die.
The resources that animals compete for include:
Animals may also compete for mates so that they can reproduce.
Remember that plants make their own food using photosynthesis, so they do not compete for food. The resources that plants compete for include:
- mineral salts.
Humans are very successful organisms. We compete with animals and plants all over the world. For example, our farmers compete with animals and plants for water and space, and with animals for food.
The Arctic is cold and windy with very little rainfall. Plants in the Arctic often grow very close to the ground and have small leaves. This helps to conserve water and to avoid damage by the wind.
The polar bear
Polar bears are well adapted for survival in the Arctic. Their adaptations include:
- a white appearance as camouflage from prey on the snow and ice
- thick layers of fat and fur for insulation against the cold
- a small surface area to volume ratio, to minimise heat loss
- a greasy coat that sheds water after swimming
- large furry feet to distribute their load and increase grip on the ice.
Watch polar bear videos on BBC Nature and discover how well polar bears and their cubs are adapted to the extreme environment they live in.
The snowshoe hare
The snowshoe hare has white fur…