The survival of each species of animal on this earth depends on its ability to adapt to its environment to obtain food, to protect itself from predators and to reproduce. Therefore, any inherited characteristic that increases the efficiency of one or all of these necessities of life will greatly enhance the species; ability to continue in existence.
Most animal species have to move around in search of food and have adapted in different ways of being able to travel from one place to another. Small aquatic animals have hairlike cilia that serve the function of propelling them through the water. Many larger species have developed fins or legs to help them adapt to movement. The penguin, for example has wings similar in function to flippers that enable them to swim underwater.
Many of the body structures in animals are specialized for their feeding habits. Herbivores have blunt teeth so that they can cut off the stalks of vegetables and grind up the fibers. Carnivores have large sharp teeth needed for holding and tearing the prey. An anteater has a long sticky tongue so that it can slither the tongue into a nest of ants and termites withdrawing it with the meal on the tongue. The tongue action of frogs and chameleons is very swift enabling them to trap quickly moving insects in an instant.
Animals adaptations include characteristics that enable them to defend themselves or escape from their predators. Many have weapons of defense, such as sharp claws, large fangs and poisonous secretions. Others have shells or hard backs that protect them from been eaten by larger predators. Still others possess great running speed enabling them to escape quite rapidly when there is a threat to their existence.
Adaptation for animals also includes camouflage. With pale colors that blend into the background of their environment, they can remain hidden and safe because they are inconspicuous. Camouflaged animals are colored so that they are hard to distinguish from the color of the earth, the leaves of the trees or the flowers. Fawns, for example, sport a spotted coat that helps them blend in with the colors of the forest. The behaviour of animals is also a characteristic of an adaptation. While some of them do run at the first sign of danger, those that are camouflaged usually stay perfectly still until the threat has passed.
Some types of adaptations are temporary rather than permanent. Animals change to adjust to the changes in the environment. For example, wild rabbits are white in winter and brown in summer. Dogs have a heavy coat of fur in the winter and they shed this coat in the spring of the year.
The various adaptations of animals in the wild vary according to the region where they are found, the climatic conditions and the manner in which they obtain food. Giraffes eat the leaves off the high trees and therefore need to have long necks. Moose inhabit the forests of North America where they encounter various types of terrain and so have the long legs they need to traverse it.