Animal and plant adaptations and behaviours

Adaptations help organisms survive in their ecological niche or habitat; adaptations can be anatomical, behavioural or physiological.

Anatomical adaptations are physical features such as an animals shape. Behavioural adaptations can be inherited or learnt and include tool use, language and swarming behaviour. Physiological adaptations include the ability to make venom; but also more general functions such as temperature regulation.

Adapted to extremes

Adaptation to extremes encompasses all the special behaviours and physiologies that living things need to withstand the planet's harshest conditions and environments. Whether it's a lack of oxygen at altitude, the searing heat of deserts or the bitter cold of the polar regions, plants, animals and other organisms have evolved a multitude of coping strategies.

Animal intelligence

Animal intelligence covers behaviour that's considered above the norm for an animal. Some species may be unusally adept at learning new skills or using tools. Others have highly developed social and even emotional skills and may even have developed a distinct culture, in a similar way to human beings.

Behavioural pattern

Behavioural pattern describes an animal's dominant way of life. Arboreal animals, for example, live in trees and nocturnal animals are active at night.

Communication and senses

Communication and senses are how an organism perceives the world - for instance through scent or sight - and how it sends messages or warnings to others.

Ecosystem role

Ecosystem roles are about the part an animal or plant plays in sustaining or maintaining the habitat around them. Bees, for example, pollinate flowers, without which those plants would not produce fruits or seeds. Other species, such as dung beetles, play a vital role in keeping grasslands clear of animal waste and recycling valuable resources.

Feeding habits

Feeding habits describe the dominant diet of a particular species or group of species, and how they go about obtaining it.

Life cycle

Life cycle describes all the different stages through which an animal, plant or other organism passes from conception, through adulthood to death. Encompassed here are not only the major physiological stages of growth and development, but also temporary occurrences such as moulting and experiential phases such as courtship and parenthood.


Locomotion is how an animal gets around - for instance by swimming, flying or climbing.


Morphology is anything to do with what a plant or animal looks like - its size, shape, colour or structure.

Predation strategy

Predation is catching and killing an animal in order to eat it and different species have evolved a range of strategies for doing this efficiently. The most frequently used methods are variations on chasing and capturing if the predator is a fast runner, ambushing to conserve energy, or using a trapping mechanism such as a spider's web.

Reproductive strategy

Reproduction covers all the tactics and behaviours involved in obtaining a mate, conceiving the next generation and successfully raising them. It includes everything from plants being pollinated, to stags fighting over hinds, to lionesses babysitting their sisters' cubs.

Social behaviour

Social behaviour is all about how an animal interacts with members of its own species. For instance, does it live in a colony or on its own, does it fight to be top of the pecking order, or does it try to keep strangers away from its home?

Survival strategy

Survival strategies enable organisms to cope with particular stresses, from temporary environmental changes in the weather to the constant threat of predation. So, for instance, to avoid the cold of winter animals may migrate away or hibernate, while trees may shed their leaves. To avoid predation, plants may be poisonous or covered with defensive spikes and animals may use camouflage or travel in great numbers.