Fit for Survival
explore the meaning of physical and behavioral adaptation, consider
how migration fits in, and identify adaptations that help the Journey
North species they track survive.
2 periods and then ongoing through season
chart paper, marker
In order to survive and thrive in specific environments, animal species
(along with plants and other organisms) have developed a host of
that help them find food, protect themselves, cope with tough environments,
and reproduce. Some of these are physical characteristics — like
sharp beaks, bright coloration, or body types that can take advantage
of thermals and updrafts.
Others are behavioral. These include building nests, communicating with one
another, and ways of finding food. Migration is a behavioral adaptation
central to this
These adaptations don't
happen overnight; they are slow, gradual changes that can take hundreds
of thousands of years to evolve. If an animal has a particular physical
characteristic or behavior that enables it to survive when others
in its species are less likely to, that trait gets passed onto its
offspring and to future generations.
helps sets the stage for students to think about how their Journey
North species are adapted to "get by" in different environments.
As your students
explore migrations of specific Journey North species, encourage them
to consider how their animals are adapted to survive the trip and new
out what your students know about the concept of animal adaptations.
Ask students to toss out examples and keep a running list. Always
ask, How does this feature benefit the animal (that is, help
it survive or reproduce)? You may need to grease the wheels
with an example (e.g., a hummingbird's long, thin beak can reach
into flowers to get nectar).
are, students will mainly suggest physical adaptations. Explain
that adaptations can also be behaviors that help an animal
survive or reproduce (e.g., cranes "dance" to prepare
for mating, robins build nests high off the ground). What other
have they observed or learned about?
students don't mention migration, ask, What winter conditions
in northern environments could affect animals' survival? (Cold
weather, frozen water, less food available, less "cover.") How
are different animals adapted to deal with these winter conditions? Students
may note such factors as growing heavier coats or hibernating.
it doesn't come up, ask, What about changing location? Students
should understand that migration itself is an important adaptation
for survival! Ask, Do you think each animal or group actually decides
to migrate each year?
Help students understand migration is done by instinct. It
is a behavioral adaptation evolved over many thousands of
years. Certain animals responded
to seasonal challenges by moving toward areas that had more food and
other things they needed. These were the ones that survived
and passed on that "urge
for going" to future generations!
- Ask, What
does a migrating animal need to be able to do? Start a chart
with columns headed by general categories, such as the ability
to winter grounds
food (for self or young)
itself/young from predators
this chart posted throughout the season as students learn about
their Journey North species via direct observations, news reports,
activities, and question-and-answer sessions. As they uncover physical
and behavioral adaptations that enable the species to survive these
migrations and habitats, students should list these under the appropriate
categories. Next to each one, they should put a P (physical
adaptation) or a B (behavioral adaptation).
students list new adaptations, routinely ask, Why is this adaptation
beneficial to the animal (species)? What problems might it face
if it did not have the adaptation?
Connections — Journaling Questions
some adaptations seem more important to your migrating species
during one season than another? Explain your thinking.
other animals in the same habitats have similar adaptations? Which
animals? Why do you think these developed along the same lines?
are some ways in which certain ecosystems are threatened or changed
by human actions? (For example, overcutting in the monarch's winter
Oyamel forest.) How might plants and animals be affected?
your animal's preferred food sources were unavailable, how well
do you think it could adapt to the change? How about if it's winter
habitat were destroyed? Explain your thinking. See
Environmental Changes: Who's Fit to Survive?
As students add items to the chart and discuss them and respond to discussion
and journaling questions, check that they make the connection between physical
traits and behaviors and an animal's ability to survive and/or reproduce.
They should also understand that adaptations are not something intentional;
they slowly evolve over hundreds or thousands of generations.
Science Education Standards
Organisms have basic needs. Organisms can survive only in environments in which
their needs can be met. (K-4)
or animal has different structures that serve different functions
in growth, survival, reproduction. (K-4)
behavior patterns are related to the nature of that organism's environment
. . . When the environment changes, some plants and animals survive
and reproduce, and others die or move to new locations. (K-4)
behavior evolves through adaptation to its environment. How a species
moves, obtains food, reproduces, and responds to danger are based
in the species' evolutionary history. (5-8)
change environments in ways that can be either beneficial or detrimental
for themselves and other organisms. (K-4)