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Science

Adaptations

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Animals and plants are adapted to their environment. They have characteristics that allow them to survive there. This makes them better able to compete for limited resources.

Cold climates

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 living in different habitats need different adaptations.

For example, 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 snowshoe hare has white fur in the winter and reddish-brown fur in the summer. This means that it is camouflaged from its predators for most of the year.

The polar bear

The polar bear is adapted to life in a cold climate

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 more polar bear videos on BBC Nature, and discover how well they and their cubs are adapted to the extreme environment they live in.

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