During the winter months, animals have unique methods for getting through the winter safely, even when food is difficult to find. Some animals hibernate, some animals eat different foods in the winter, and some animals migrate to a new location every winter. These responses are called “adaptations.” Animals in Winter have very unique behaviors and habits. Some hibernate and some migrate. Others adapt. Take a look at the three kinds of adaptations.
How an animal finds food is just one type of adaptation. Each characteristic and behavior of an animal is a different form of adaptation. There are three main types of winter adaptations:
A structural adaptation is a change to the animal itself during the winter. This could mean growing a thicker coat to protect against winter chill, or changing the color of an animal’s coat during the winter to match the snow so it doesn’t stand out as much to predators.
Behavioral adaptation is a behavior change that an animal adapts to the changes in the temperature. Two common forms of animal behavioral adaptation are migration and hibernation. Animals that don’t hibernate are far more likely to have behavioral adaptations.
During migration, animals modify their behavior to travel to a warmer location during the winter.
Hibernation is a cross-adaptation, using elements of both structural adaptation (using less energy) and behavior adaptation (eating more food in the fall to prepare for winter).
Some species of animals and insects develop adaptations in response to their habitat. Some species of rabbits change fur color each winter to better disguise their movements in a white atmosphere.
A famous habitat adaptation in recent history is the adaptation of the English peppered moth. At the beginning of the industrial revolution the moth was a light cream color with light grey spots. Over the next few decades, the moths adapted darker, soot-colored wings to blend in with the smog in large cities. When England started regulating industrial pollution, greater numbers of the cream colored moths returned.
Animals that Adapt in Winter
Adaptation Books and Resources
Polar Animal Adaptations (Amazing Animal Adaptations)All About Animals in Winter (Celebrate Winter)A Warm Winter TailExtreme Animals: The Toughest Creatures on Earth (AnimalHow and Why Do Animals Adapt? (All aboutAnimal Physiology: Adaptation and Environment
Almost all animals native to seasonal locations adapt in the winter. Cats and dogs grow thicker winter coats. Many bird species fly south for winter. Many large animals hibernate or build dens to keep warm. Some species completely alter their coloring to remain disguised in snowy weather. These adaptations keep animals alive through the winter and help the species survive from year to year.
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