Feet Adaptations!

Monica Tan

5.10A Compare the structures and functions of different species that help them live and survive such as hooves on prairie animals or webbed feet in aquatic animals.

  • Introduction: Structural Adaptation

  • Polar Bears

  • Polar Bear Foot

  • Elephants

  • Elephant Feet

  • Claws

  • Cheetah Feet

  • Paddles

  • Sea Lion Group

  • Clogs or Flip Flops?

  • Horse Hoof

  • Fins or Spikes?

  • Bird's Feet

  • THE END!!


Adaptations help animals survive.  An adaptation is a change in an animal’s physical structure or behavior that helps an animal to survive in their habitat. 

Today we are going to look at structural adaptations.  A structural adaptation is a physical change in the animal. Examples: the shape of a bird’s beak, shape of an animal's feet, or the color of an animal’s fur.

These structural adaptations do not develop during one lifetime, but over many generations.

We are going to look briefly at only 1 of 5 structural adaptations:

1.  Mouth parts

2. Feet

3. Senses

4.  Coloration

5. Defenses

gorilla feet



The polar bear's paws are marvelously adapted to life in the Arctic. How? Let's count the ways:

1. The feet are covered with hair so that the bear can get a good grip as it runs across the ice and snow.

2. Thickly callused pads both protect from the cold and prevent the bears from cutting themselves on sharp ice edges.

3. Long claws help the bear to travel on the ice, pull itself up onto the ice after a swim, or dig snow caves.

4. Sharp claws are deadly weapons when attacking walrus or caribou, snatching seals out of the water, or fighting off other bears.

5. The forepaws are partially webbed to assist in swimming.

Polar Bear Foot

Polar Bear Foot Swimming

Elephant feet!

High Heels

Despite their massive size and weight, elephants walk on their tiptoes. A thick layer of padding separates the heel bone from the bottom of the foot, while the toe bones are instead much closer to the skin layer. The padding serves to cushion the bone, and is similar to the heel of a shoe, with the exception of probably being more comfortable.

Because of their special feet, elephants barely leave footprints while walking. They may also feel vibrations in the ground, such as those of a storm or approaching animals.

Elephant Feet

Bottom of Elephant Feet

Many animals, such as dogs or wolves, have semi retractable claws. Their toenails are always out and visible.

While most cats are able to retract their claws, cheetahs cannot. They too have semi retractable claws that dig into the ground for a better grip, allowing them to run faster. Cheetahs can run as fast as seventy miles per hour, and at those speeds they need as much grip and stability as possible.

Like the metal spikes on cleats, the claws of these animals can also wound their opposition. Cheetahs often use their dewclaw to scratch and trip the legs of their prey during pursuit for an easier kill.

Cheetah Claws

Cheetah Feet

The Cheetah

Sea Lion Flippers

Sea lions, as well as other aquatic mammals, have legs specially adapted for life in the water. Their appendages are shaped like paddles, and help them to swim better by moving the water more efficiently.

Humans also mimic these adaptations by using paddles in canoes or kayaks. Pinnipeds like sea lions, walruses, and seals can also walk on land using all four of their flippers.

Sea Lion Group

Sea Lion Group Nap

Reindeer Hoof

Clogs or Flip Flops?

Horses, mules and donkey's all have solid hooves.   The solid hoof is built for speed when crossing wide open places.

Not all hooves are solid.  A cloven hoof helps goats and sheep to walk and keep their balance on uneven ground such as rocky hillsides.  They can also help cows and pigs keep their hooves healthy and out of the mud.  Deer, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, and bison are all North American wild animals with cloven hooves.  Some domestic animals with cloven hooves are goats, sheep, cattle and pigs.


Horse Hoof

Horse Hoof

Fins or Spikes?

Birds have different types of feet.  

Not every bird needs feet that are large, or have sharp talons.  Water birds, such as ducks and geese, have webbed feet to help them swim.   A hummingbird's feet are very small and not too powerful since it spends very little time perching.   An Eagle's foot is strong and powerful to be used in hunting. 

Bird's feet are adapted to the food they eat or the environment they live in.

Blue Footed Booby Bird

Bird's Feet


Now GO learn some more!!

Fierce Eagle!