Honolulu Zoo Society : Survival! Adaptations

Structural Adaptations

Topic Overview

Begin the Lesson

Students are introduced to the two types of adaptation - structural and behavioral. This WebLesson will focus predominantly on structural adaptations; behavioral adaptations will be covered more extensively in the next WebLesson.


Whole Class Introduction to the Lesson

You will need at least one computer with Internet connectivity and a projection device, a classroom with more than one computer, or access to a computer lab.  This introduction will take approximately 10 minutes to complete.

As part of the introduction, you may want to review some of the glossary terms in advance of students going online. At this point you can launch the WebLesson as whole-class activity using a projection device, or you can assign students to work individually or in teams in a computer lab.



Suggested Answer to the Apply Section Project

The students should look up each of these three animals and gather information on them.  This information could include specific adaptations for feeding, locomotion, defense, and breeding, among others.  The students should relate these adaptations to the habitat in which the animal lives.

Alternative activity - the teacher can pick other species to use.  Animals that can be found at the local zoo are recommended.  

Extension activities: 1) specify the aspects of a zoo enclosure that are determined by these adatapations and design the enclosure. 2) take the students to the zoo and look at the enclosures being used for the animals with which they have worked.


WebLesson Sites
A structural adaptation is a physical feature, like skin color, body shape, or type of feet or claws, that helps an organism survive in its environment. The many different adaptions that animals, plants, and other organisms have are why we have so many different types of organisms in the world today (biodiversity).

You are working as a junior naturalist at your local zoo. The Zoo just rescued some animals they have never had before. Your job is to help identify where to place the animals in the zoo. In order for the animals to be happy and survive in their habitats, you will need to consider the animals’ structural adaptations and how these features help them to survive in their environments.

Lesson Pages
NatureWorks: Adaptation
Rich Media
Teacher: Online Activities: Science Explorations: Animals, Adaptation, and the Galápagos Islands
Rich Media
How Animals Meet their Needs
Rich Media
Adaptations and behaviours
Rich Media
Conclusion & Project
Unique groups of animals (species) are a result of structural and behavioral adaptations that help individual animals survive in a particular environment. For example, tigers with stripes were better able to sneak up on their prey than those that had solid coats. More of their striped babies survived, so more tigers became striped. Eventually, all tigers were striped. With constant changes to the environment, food chain, and climate, other adaptations will become more important to animals’ survival.
Your zoo had rescued a beaver, a group of macaroni penguins, and three bullfrogs. Make a list of each animal's three most important structural adaptations and how they help them survive in their environment. This will help the zookeepers know where to place these animals.
adaptation - alteration or adjustment in structure or habits, passed down from parents, that improves an individual's ability to survive in its environment
altitude - the height of an object in relation to sea or ground level
biodiversity - the variety of life in the world or in a particular habitat or ecosystem
biology - the study of all living things
botany - the study of plants
camouflage - coloration or patterns that help conceal or disguise something
climate - weather conditions of a region, such as temperature, air pressure, humidity, precipitation, cloudiness, and winds, averaged over a series of years
coral - hard, colored skeleton secreted by certain marine polyps
dissipate - to scatter or break up
ecosystem - a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment
environment - the external surroundings and conditions in which a plant or animal lives
excrete - to discharge waste matter from the body through the kidneys, skin, lungs, bowels, etc.
fossil - the remains or impression of a prehistoric organism preserved in petrified form, as a mold or cast in rock
generation - the average interval of time between the birth of parents and the birth of their offspring
habitat - the natural home or environment of an animal.
hypoxia - low levels of oxygen in blood or tissue
inherited - to receive (a characteristic or trait) from one's parents by genetic transmission
instinct - inborn pattern of behavior that is characteristic of a species and is often a response to something specific in the environmental
natural selection - organisms best suited to their environments tend to survive and breed more successfully than those that are less well suited
naturalist - a person who is expert or interested natural history, especially botany or zoology
paleontology - the study of the forms of life existing in prehistoric or geologic times
reef - ridge of rocks or sand
sonar - the use of sound waves transmitted and reflected under water to detect and locate submerged objects or measure the distance to other objects underwater
tolerant - able to withstand or endure an adverse environmental condition
toxic - poisonous
venomous - capable of putting poison or venom into another's body