Frog sitting on a water lily
Both the color of the frog and the design of the water lily are adaptaions.

Overview Page

Adaptations of Plants and Animals

Grade Four

SC4.5.2  Knows that the behavior of individual organisms is influenced by internal cues

               and external cues and that humans and other organisms have senses that help

               them to detect these cues

·         hunger

·         changes in the environment


SC4.5.3  Knows that living organisms have distinct structures and body systems that serve specific functions in growth, survival, and reproduction

·         various body structures for walking, flying, or swimming

·         parts of a plant

 Concepts in this text:


      1)      Internal and External Cues

2)      Body structures of plants and animals


3)      Purpose of those parts

4)      Adaptations are changes in structure or behavior that help an organism to survive in its indigenous environment.

5)      Integrate adaptations (food getting, shelter building, structural/behavioral) with an organism's ability to survive in its environment or niche

6)      Plant adaptations include leaf types (evergreens, grasses, various broadleaf specimens) and other physical characteristics.

     7)  Some plants with special adaptations

  • Characters

  • Animal Needs

  • Animal Adaptations

  • Additional Animal Adaptations

  • Animal Color and Shape

  • Animal Instincts

  • Plant Needs

  • Plant Adaptations

  • Unusual Plant Adaptation

  • Key Points

  • Works Cited and Resources


Here are the characters that will appear throughout the book. In order to use the characters, just click on them at the bottom of the page.

Go ahead, click on the characters below and they will tell you how they will assist you along your way.

Also, if you see a word that is underlined, click on it. A glossary will appear with the definition of the word. These are important words to know.

Moose eating grass.
A moose is grazing on its food source, grass.

What does an animal need to survive?
Although the specifics of an animal's needs vary between species, all animals have needs that must be met to survive. These needs include; appropriate climate, oxygen, food, water, shelter and reproduction. An animal uses its environment to meet these needs.

How do animals meet their needs?

Body part adaptations allow an animal to utilize certain body parts to maximize their environment.

Examples of bird adaptations: beaks, eyes, feathers and hollow bones.

Different types of beaks are beneficial depending on their environment and needs. A sharp pointed beak is better suited to eat insects, while a heavy beak is used to crack open seeds.

A bird that flies has hollow bones which make it lighter, but an ostrich has dense bones because it does not fly.

Storks looking for food
Storks use their long sharp beaks to catch fish and frogs.

Additional Animal Adaptations.

Fur/Hair: The hair and fur on animals are adaptations that are best suited for the animal in its environment. Some animals, such as the American bison, grow thick coats of fur to protect it from the frigid winter temperatures. Once the weather improves and temperatures rise, the American bison sheds its thick coat of fur. Other animals use their hair for protection. A hedgehog is covered with sharp spines, and when it feels threatened, it will roll up into a ball. These spines deter predators from eating them.

Scales: Both fish and reptiles have scales, but they serve different purposes. A fish's scales protect it from disease and other animals, while the scales on a snake help it to move smoothly through its environment.

Hedgehog with its sharp spines.
A hedgehog's spines protect it from other animals.

Animal Color and Shape

Sometimes animals use color and shape  as an adaptation to meet one of their needs. Animals do this when they blend in with their environment (camouflage ) or make themselves look like another animal in the environment (mimicry ). Can you spot the animal in the picture?


Camouflaged horned lizard
Example of a horned lizard using an adaptation (camouflage)

Geese Flying
Snow geese migrate every year

Animal Instincts.

Instinct is an adaptation that an animal begins its life with that helps them meet their needs.

Examples of an Instinct:

Migration occurs when a group of animals move from one region to another, and then return to their original region at a later time (geese). Usually brought about by a season change.

Hibernation is an extended period of sleep for an animal. The amount of energy used during hibernation is less compared to that used during normal activities. Often animals will do this during winter months (ground squirrels).

Palm trees
These healthy palm trees are meeting all of their needs.

Plant Needs.

There are four things a plant needs from its environment; air (carbon dioxide), nutrients , water and light. Even though not all plants attain their needs the same way, they all use adaptations when attaining them.

Each part of the plant is responsible for helping the plant achieve a need. The parts of the plant are; roots, leaves, stems, flowers, seeds and fruits. All plant parts play a vital role in its survival, because each part has been adapted to best meet the plant's needs.

Sunflower (top left), cactus (top right) and water lilies (bottom)
The sunflower, water lily and cactus are all different because they have adapted to different climates.

Plant Adaptations.

Plants have many adaptations. The type of adaptation a plant has is a result of its environment. A water lilies stem is going to be much different compared to a sunflower stem. Although both stems serve similar purposes, they are quite different because of their environment. The stem of a sunflower is fairly rigid because it needs to support the flower and leaves in the air. However, a water lilies stem does not need to be as rigid. Even though it must still support the flower and leaves, it is doing so in water. The major difference between the two stems is due to the fact that both plants have adapted to the environment they live in.

Venus flytrap
Venus flytrap eating a fly

Unusual Plant Adaptations.

Not all plants receive nutrients from the ground. Some plants have created adaptations not usually associated with plants. The venus flytrap above receives nutrients from flies it captures in its leaves. When the fly disturbs the trigger hairs on the leaf, the leaf will snap shut. The fly will be digested over the next several weeks.

Eagle catching a fish.
This eagle uses its sharp claws when catching a fish.

In order to survive, both animals and plants must meet their basic needs. For animals, those needs are; appropriate climate , oxygen, food, water, shelter and reproduction. While plant needs consist of; air (carbon dioxide), nutrients , water and light. These needs are met using the adaptations an animal or plant has developed over time. The adaptations are specific to their environment, and without them their chance of survival would be much lower.

Works Cited and Resources



Frank, M., Jones, R., Krockover, G., Lang, M., McLeod, J., Valenta, C., Van Deman, B. Harcourt Science. Orlando: Harcourt School, 2002.