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Revision Notes. Adaptation and Competition. Examples of extreme adaptations:

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11.5 Adaptation and Competition


  • To survive, organisms require a supply of materials from their surroundings and from the other living organisms there.
  • Organisms live, grow and reproduce in places where, and at times when, conditions are suitable.

Physical (abiotic) factors:

  • Light
  • Oxygen
  • Water
  • Temperature

Living (biotic) factors:

  • Food
  • Predation
  • Grazing
  • Disease
  • Competition – for:   food, light, water, space.

Competition in Animals

Animals often compete with each other for:

  • Food
  • Mates
  • Territory

Competition in Plants

Plants often compete with each other for:

  • Light
  • Water from the soil
  • Nutrients from the soil


  • Organisms have features (adaptations) which enable them to survive in the conditions in which they normally live
  • The organisms that are best adapted to make use of their resources in a habitat are more likely to survive and increase in numbers
  • For example:
  • To be able to obtain a certain food better.
  • To make it more difficult for predators or grazing animals to catch them or eat them. eg thorns, poisons and warning colours to deter predators.
  • To survive in extreme climates, eg arctic or deserts
  • Their adaptation will effect their abundance compared to other populations in  a habitat

Examples of extreme adaptations:


  • The camel can go without food and water for 3 to 4 days.
  • Fat stored in their humps provides long term food reserve, and a supply of metabolic water. The fat is not distributed around the body; this reduces insulation, allowing more heat loss.
  • They are tall and thin, increasing their surface area to volume ration, increasing heat loss by radiation.

Polar Bear

  • Polar bear has thick fur and fat beneath its skin to insulate it.
  • Their large, furry feet help to distribute their weight as they walk on a thin ice.
  • They are white which camouflages them against the snow.  This helps them to hunt.
  • They are compact in shape, reducing their surface area to volume ratio; this reduces heat loss by radiation.

Desert plants

  • Eg the cactus, require very little water to survive
  • Leaves are spines.
  • Spines guard against most browsing herbivorous animals.
  • Spines also reduce their surface area, reducing water loss by evaporation
  • A thick waxy coating surrounds the plant to reduce evaporation.
  • Fewer 'stomata', reducing water loss
  • Roots tend to spread sideways to catch rain water.

Arctic plants

  • Many of the plants are small, growing close to the ground and very close together to avoid the wind and conserve heat.
  • Some possess a light, fuzzy covering to insulate the buds so they can grow.
  • Many are dark shades of blue and purple to absorb the heat from the sunlight even during the winter months.
  • Because of the cold and short growing seasons, arctic plants grow very slowly.
  • Some grow for ten years before they produce any buds for reproduction.

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