We explain what is the adaptation of living beings and what types of adaptation exist. Some examples of adaptations.
What is the adaptation of living beings?
In biology , we mean by adaptation of living beings or biological adaptation to the process in which the latter develop the ability to survive in a different environment , varying their strategies and even their physical characteristics, in order to preserve life .
Life adapts, thus, to changes in both abiotic factors (temperature, sunlight, pH , etc.) and in biotics (new species, extinction, etc.) of their environment, through physical or behavioral changes that are they transmit to later generations, thus guaranteeing the continuity of the species.
The adaptation plays an essential role in the evolution of the species, since natural selection guarantees the offspring to those who adapt better to the environment and their eventual variations, extinguishing instead those who fail to do so. It is a very slow process , which can take many generations and is irreversible.
The adaptation should not be confused with acclimatization or acclimatization , a term that calls rather the short-term compensatory changes with which the species respond to the changes around them, and that are the result of a certain margin of phenotypic plasticity (certain flexibility of the functioning of their bodies).
Thus, by biological adaptation we can refer both to the process of change and gradual adaptation of the species, as to the changes in the body or the behavior of the same that increase the margins of survival, taking greater advantage of a characteristic already present.
Types of adaptations
There are three types of biological adaptation to the environment in which one lives:
- Morphological or structural . It occurs when the body of the species is varied (anatomical variation), both in the loss or gain of limbs, their specialization, or the development of mimicry and cryptic colorations.
- Physiological or functional . They are those that have to do with alterations in the internal functioning of organisms, such as the development of new organs, new enzymes or hormones to meet a specific need within the body, derived from the change in the environment.
- Ethological or behavioral . As the name implies, it refers to the behavioral changes that species adopt and transmit to their offspring to ensure reproductive success and survival. It may well be more effective courtship mechanisms, feeding modes that involve fewer risks, etc.
There is currently scientific debate regarding a fourth method, which would imply molecular adaptation. There is no clear criterion for determining the influence of natural selection on the molecular development of life forms as simple as viruses , for example.
Examples of adaptation of living things
Some simple examples of each type of biological adaptation are as follows:
- The thorns of the cactus . In environments as hostile as arid, the vegetation has been adapted to protect itself more intensely from possible herbivores and also from UV radiation and excess heat. The thorns are leaves adapted to a new shape, sharp and pointed, that defend the tissues of the animals and incidentally provide a surface for the condensation of water, which in these places is not very abundant.
- The salt gland of marine iguanas . Since these are reptiles that returned to the sea in the course of generations, their bodies were not initially adapted to the amount of salt they absorbed from seawater, which accumulated in their blood and was potentially harmful. So their bodies over the years developed a gland in which to accumulate salt and expel it.
- The courtship of the birds of paradise . These birds of the genus Paradisaeidade developed with the generations a courtship mechanism, in which they extend their very colorful plumage and accompany it with elaborate dances. This courtship allows females of the same species to recognize the males available to mate, and thus hybridization with similar bird species is avoided. This behavioral adaptation minimizes the number of hybrids and maximizes the survival of the species.