By Brooke Coe, Education Specialist
Due to our ever-changing world, animals adapt their behavior, physiology, or structure to accommodate their habitats. Every animal has acquired adaptations over time to help them survive, and some are much more noticeable than others!
For instance, picture a hedgehog, a tortoise, and a poison dart frog. Each of these animals has developed a barrier on their body that dissuades a predator from taking a bite. They are three very different adaptations, yet serve the exact same purpose: protection.
The hair on a hedgehog’s back is composed of a very thick matrix of keratin (the same component in human hair or fingernails) and modified into a very pointed spike. When a hedgehog encounters a predator, it rolls itself into a ball, leaving only the spiked hair exposed. They protect their most vulnerable spots – their head and soft belly, from hungry animals.
The tortoise is best known for its protective heavy shell that surrounds the softer body parts. The shell, permanently attached to the spine and ribs of the tortoise, is the only defense against predators in the wild. It is made out of the same type of dermal bone found in human skulls. The bone grows around the tortoise body in early development and is covered by keratin scales.
Poison dart frogs maintain levels of defensive toxins in their skin, and the most potent of frogs have enough toxin to kill 10 humans! They all have brightly colored skin to advertise their toxicity. Typically, predatory animals get the hint and leave the dart frogs alone.
Each of these animals has different protective qualities to survive in the wild, exhibiting some pretty unique adaptations. To learn more about the exciting animal kingdom, visit the Zoo with your school group in the fall and can take advantage of special programs like Zoo Previews or Survive and Thrive: An Animal Adaptations Show. Sign up online or 916-808-8814.