Adapted to extremes

  1. Altitude tolerant

    Altitude tolerant organisms are adapted to living high up where oxygen levels - or carbon dioxide levels in the case of plants - are low.

  2. Chemical tolerant

    Chemical tolerant describes organisms which can tolerate high concentrations of substances which would be toxic or corrosive to other life.

  3. Cold tolerant

    Cold tolerant organisms have evolved various methods for coping with very low temperatures.

  4. Dry tolerant

    Dry tolerant plants and animals are able to cope with conditions where water is hard to find.

  5. Fire tolerant

    Fire adapted organisms benefit in some way from the occurrence of bush or forest fires.

  6. Heat tolerant

    Heat tolerant animals and plants have special adaptations for survival in hot places.

Animal intelligence

  1. Culture

    Culture is a social system or set of behaviours that is passed down through the generations, and which differs from that seen in other populations of the same species.

  2. Language

    Language is a way of communicating through sound, where specific meanings are used in certain circumstances.

  3. Learning

    Learning is the process of picking up new skills.

  4. Tool use

    Tool use was once thought to be a strictly human behaviour, but it is now known that many kinds of animals use tools.

Behavioural pattern

  1. Air plant

    Air plants, or epiphytes, complete part or all of their life cycle anchored or perched on another plant or structure rather than rooted in the soil.

  2. Burrower

    Burrowing, or fossorial, animals live underground and for a variety of reasons.

  3. Cave dweller

    Cave dwelling, or troglophilic, animals spend their whole lives in cave systems.

  4. Nocturnal

    Nocturnal animals are primarily active at night rather than during daylight hours.

  5. Nomadic

    Nomadic animals wander from place to place, using no particular fixed routes - unlike a migration - rather than staying in one tightly defined area.

  6. Parasitic

    Parasitic organisms have a close relationship with another organism, which they use ultimately to extract food.

  7. Sessile

    Sessile describes animals that don't move around, such as barnacles and corals.

  8. Swarming

    Swarming happens when animals gather or travel together in large numbers.

  9. Symbiotic

    Symbiosis is a relationship between two organisms that's beneficial to one (commensal) or both (true symbiote).

  10. Tree dweller

    Tree dwelling, or arboreal, animals are particularly well adapted to spending most or all of their time in trees.

Communication and senses

  1. Acoustic communication

    Acoustic communication is the sending and receiving of messages using sound.

  2. Bioluminescence

    Bioluminescence is light created by living organisms and and it can create the most fantastic displays.

  3. Chemical communication

    Chemical communication is all about taste and smell.

  4. Echolocation and ultrasound

    Ultrasound is high frequency sound that's above the range of human hearing.

  5. Mimicry

    Mimicry is when an animal or plant resembles another creature or inanimate object, either for defence or to gain other advantages.

  6. Tactile sense

    Tactile sense includes the obvious sense of contact with another object, but also incorporates a bird's ability to sense air flow over its wings and a fish's sensitivity to water movements.

  7. Visual communication

    Visual communication transmits information to others through shape, colour and movement or body language.

  8. Warning colours

    Warning colours (aposematism) describes colouration and other markings that send a signal to predators to keep away, often because the owner is poisonous or simply tastes bad.

Ecosystem role

  1. Detritus recycler

    Detritus recyclers are the cleaners of the ecosystem, ridding the area of rotting material and recycling energy back into the food chain.

  2. Pollinator

    Pollinators carry pollen from plant to plant and, often unwittingly, play a crucial role in plant reproduction.

  3. Seed dispersal

    Seed dispersal is when seeds are carried away from the parent plant either deliberately or accidentally.

Feeding habits

  1. Blood sucker

    Blood suckers take a variety of forms, many of them parasitic, from small invertebrates to larger mammals.

  2. Carnivorous

    Carnivores are animals whose main method of getting food is to kill and eat other animals, or to scavenge their dead flesh.

  3. Dung eater

    Dung eaters feed on waste, either of other species or their own.

  4. Herbivorous

    Herbivores are animals that exist mainly on a diet of plants or algae.

  5. Kleptoparasitic

    Kleptoparasitic animals are thieves and bandits.

  6. Scavenger

    Scavengers are those carnivorous animals that eat carrion (already dead animals) rather than hunting fresh meat for themselves.

Life cycle

  1. Courtship display

    Courtship displays are performed by animals seeking to advertise their willingness to mate, attract a partner and sometimes to warn off rivals.

  2. Maternal care

    Maternal care is where the mother of the offspring provides most or all of the effort needed to protect, feed or raise the young.

  3. Metamorphosis

    Metamorphosis is when a species changes body shape and structure at a particular point in its life cycle, such as when a tadpole turns into a frog.

  4. Moulting

    Moulting is all about renewing your skin, fur or feathers, and occurs in animals for a number of reasons.

  5. Parental investment

    Rearing young occurs where the eggs or offspring require looking after, and cannot just be abandoned to fend for themselves as with many species.

  6. Paternal care

    Paternal care is where the father of the offspring provides most or all of the effort needed to protect, feed or raise the young until they become independent.


  1. Adapted to climbing

    Scansorial describes animals that spend much of their life climbing such as squirrels, monkeys, geckos, mountain goats and tree frogs.

  2. Adapted to flying

    Flying, in its true sense, is the ability to move through the air under your own power and has evolved in different groups of animals.

  3. Adapted to gliding

    Gliding is where after an initial leap, animals rely on gravity to get them where they are going.

  4. Adapted to jumping

    Jumping is a method some animals have evolved to get around efficiently.

  5. Adapted to running

    Running and walking evolved as a method of getting around when life emerged from water on to dry land.

  6. Adapted to swimming

    Adaptations for swimming enables animals to move around in water.


  1. Camouflage

    Camouflage is the art of not being seen, practised by predators, prey and plants.

  2. Neoteny

    Neoteny refers to animals that retains juvenile features even when they become adults.

  3. Polymorphism

    Polymorphism means 'many forms' and can be exhibited in a variety of ways.

  4. Sexual dimorphism

    Sexual dimorphism describes animals where there is a physical differences between males and females of the same species (other than in the sex organs).

Predation strategy

  1. Ambush predator

    Ambushing prey is a tactic employed by a whole host of animals, from trapdoor spiders lurking in their burrows, to a cat stalking a mouse.

  2. Pack-hunter

    Pack-hunting is a type of predation where several members of a species combine their efforts to increase their chance of success in the hunt.

  3. Predator

    Predators are creatures that catch and kill other animals for food.

  4. Trapping predator

    Trapping predators perform a particular type of ambush that involves constructing something to help them catch their prey before they pounce on it.

  5. Venomous

    Venomous organisms inflict poisonous wounds by actively biting, stinging or scratching their victims and injecting toxins into them.

Reproductive strategy

  1. Active at birth

    Active at birth, or precocial, describes species that are physically mobile and able from the moment of birth or hatching.

  2. Asexual reproduction

    Asexual reproduction is the production of offspring by only one parent.

  3. Co-operative breeding

    Co-operative breeding is when parents recruit the previous year's grown up offspring or other adult helpers to help raise the latest brood or litter.

  4. Egg layer

    Oviparous animals lay eggs, inside which the young then develop before hatching occurs.

  5. Flowering

    Flowering is definitely the most successful plant reproductive strategy and has opened up nearly every habitat on Earth for colonisation.

  6. Helpless young

    Helpless, or altricial, young describes babies that are not very well developed and are utterly incapable of taking care of themselves.

  7. Hermaphroditic

    Hermaphrodites have both male and female sex organs, either throughout their lives (homgamy) or that develop and mature at different points in their life cycle (dichogamy).

  8. Monogamous

    Monogamous animals partner up with a single mate, sometimes for the duration of a breeding season and less commonly over multiple seasons and years.

  9. Ovoviviparous

    Ovoviviparous animals produce eggs inside their body, but then give birth to live young.

  10. Parthenogenetic

    Parthenogenetic species - for example water fleas - reproduce asexually, without need of a male, mating or pollination.

  11. Polygynandrous

    Polygynandrous describes a multi-male, multi-female polygamous mating system, such as that seen in lions and bonobos.

  12. Polygynous

    Polygynous sexual behaviour is the system in which a single male mates with multiple females, but each female mates with only one male.

  13. Semelparous

    Semelparous organisms reproduce only once in their lives and then die.

  14. Spawning

    Spawning animals deposit a mass of eggs and sperm in water, where they meet and are fertilised.

  15. Viviparous

    Viviparous animals bear live young that have developed inside the mother's body.

Social behaviour

  1. Colonial

    Colonial animals live in large groups in close proximity to one other.

  2. Eusocial

    Eusocial describes species with a very highly developed social structure.

  3. Hierarchical

    Hierarchical animals have what is known colloquially as a 'pecking order'.

  4. Social

    Social animals like hanging out with members of their own species.

  5. Territorial

    Territorial animals actively defend the area in which they live and more importantly on which they depend for resources.

Survival strategy

  1. Aestivation

    Aestivation is a period of deep and prolonged sleep, or torpor, that occurs in the summer or dry season in response to heat and drought.

  2. Food storage

    Food storage is a strategy for getting through hard times when resources are low because of seasonal or other factors.

  3. Hibernation

    Hibernation is an extended period of deep sleep, or torpor, that allows animals to survive winter extremes.

  4. Migration

    Migration is the usually seasonal movement of animals in pursuit of food, suitable breeding sites or to escape bad weather or other environmental conditions.

  5. Poisonous

    Poisonous animals contain or secrete toxins and need to be touched or eaten to contaminate their victim.

  6. Predation defence

    Predation defence comes in many forms: physiological, anatomical and behavioural.

  7. Shedding body parts

    Shedding body parts, or abscission which means cutting away, is the process by which plants get rid of entire organs that have been damaged or are no longer needed.

  8. Torpor

    Torpor is a form of sleep that helps animals conserve valuable resources in times of stress, such as in cold or very hot, dry weather.