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Adaptation & Fitness


What is Adaptation?


Adaptation is the evolutionary process whereby a population becomes better suited to its habitat. Evolution is the basic phenomena of biology, and it  takes place over many generations.  As adaptation provides some improved function it is a common feature in a population. Adaptations are produced by natural selection and they are well fitted to their function. Adaptation and speciation are the two main processes explaining the diversity of species.

Forms of Adaptations

1.    Behavior that allows better evasion of predators (for example, mimicry of leaves by insects) is a type of adaptation.
2.    An anatomical feature allows the organism to access a valuable new resource. Desert plants, such as the creosote bush, produces toxins to prevent other plants from growing nearby to reduce  competition for nutrients and water.

What is NOT adaptation?


•    A vestigial structures  is a feature that was an adaptation for the organism's ancestor, but it became non-functional as the environments of the organism's get changed.

•    Some fishes, like those living in caves, have non-functional eyes that are just the by-products of the fishes' evolutionary history.

Principles of Adaptations

Adaptation, affects all aspects of the life of an organism.
Three types of adaptive structures are there.

Structural adaptations:

•    Physical features of an organism (shape, body covering)

Behavioural adaptations:

•    Composed of inherited behaviour chains (searching for food, mating)

Physiological adaptations:

•    Permit the organism to perform special functions (making venom).
•    General functions such as growth and development
•    Plants grow towards light to adapt itself for the environment


Adaptation and fitness are closely related with each other.
o    Relative fitness - Relative contributions of other phenotypes in the population
o    Absolute fitness - Absolute contribution to the next generation by a phenotype
o    Adaptedness - The extent to which a phenotype fits its local ecological niche

Types of Adaptations:

Three main things affect a resident population when the living habitat changes:
1.    Habitat tracking -Resident population moves to another locale which suits it
2.    Genetic change - Population adapts genetically to its circumstances
3.    Extinction – Total disappearance of species.

Plant Adaptations:


Plants have adaptations like special features to survive in different areas (for example, some cacti are living in the Arctic). Trees have leaves and roots to absorb light and water, nutrients from soil respectively. Trees cannot live in the ocean as they are not adapted to that environment.


Animal Adaptations:


Animals are adapted to the environments in which they live. This permits them to get the food, water, and shelter they need to live. (Sharks have fins, streamlined bodies, and sharp teeth that enable them to swim quickly and catch food in the ocean). Sharks cannot live on land and because they are not adapted to those environments


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