How Organisms Adapt To Change?

Change is gradual and incremental, it is both the cause and the result of evolution. When environment transform, organisms need to adapt to change, as a result they also change. However, that constant modification has many faces, depending on its rapidity, outcome and effect on organisms. First of all, adaptation has three different meanings. It can be an evolutionary process that makes organisms fit to the environment. Furthermore it is a state that population reaches during that process. Finally, we can define adaptation as a trait that evolved through natural selection and has a functional role.

habitat adaptation

Environment changes and we can observe it in a scale of a year, on Earth or over millions of years. Those mechanisms depend on fluctuations in weather and climate in the chosen ecosystem. Polar bears have white fur, that helps them camouflage in white landscapes of Arctic, they have thick fur and it gets even thicker during the winter. Their claws are adapted to hunting and walking on snow and ice. On the other hand, their closest cousins- brown bears use analogical mechanisms, fitting their environment. The fur also helps with camouflage, but it’s brown, like the woods, fur thickness changes over season, claws help them climb trees. In conclusion, some traits evolve to help organisms survive in different conditions.

Adaptation of bears (Credits: Static.Spacecrafted.com)

Seasonal change

Seasonal change made organisms develop mechanisms that help them adapt to change in weather that appears during the year. In tropical forests of Amazon there’s only one kind of weather that remains constant over the year. Then, in temperate zone most popular system features four seasons. Organisms living in those zones had to adapt to fluctuations of the weather over the year to survive.  Mammals molt once to exchange thick, winter fur for its lighter counterpart and contrariwise when it gets colder. Plants loose leaves, some organisms hibernate, other create huge stocks. However, some species cannot adapt to one environment because change is too big for them. As a result, they migrate. During the Great Migration in Africa two million animals travel over 30,000 km2 km when dry season comes.

Seasonal change (Credit: Conversationagaent.typepad.com)

Mimicry and co-adaptation

Co-adaptation is the process by which at least two species, genes or traits submit adaptation as a pair or group. Firstly, when two organisms are under the same selective pressure, they undergo adaptation together. Secondly, some genes adapt mutually, so that can be favored by selection. Moreover, some organism require mutually adjusted changes in more than one part.. Another interesting way to adapt to change is mimicry. It is a solution, that makes organisms imitate something they are not. Sometimes it makes them look exactly like surroundings. In other cases harmless species imitate poisonous ones to avoid danger.

Mimicry of viceroy butterfly (Credit: psychology.iresearchnet.com )

Virulence and trade-off

The trade-off hypothesis states that virulence is a consequence of parasite transition and that it is unavoidable. That means that when virus infects a host it causes a lot of damage, producing offspring. However, the infected organism does not contact other possible hosts, that virus could infect. So, virus that infects more organisms is less virulent, there is a trade-off between two beneficial traits. As a result we can see that sometimes organisms compromise, each species and each individual in those species differently.

Trade-off between virulence and extent of the virus.

Outcomes of adaptation

Adaptation is a key aspect of the evolution theory. When organisms adapt to change they modify and after millions of years of those modification, they became a different species that they were at the beginning. Each organism adapts slightly differently, that is one of the mechanisms of variation. Moreover, natural selection dictates that only organisms that adapt to change survive and mate. As a result, beneficial traits spread among species. Without adaptation life would disappear when first big transformation happened. Organisms that cannot adapt become extinct.

Author's message

I hope this article helped you understand how important adaptation is in the theory of evolution. In the next part of the series we will continue our journey through life. To extend your knowledge about the topic, check the external links and the previous article of the series. Please share the article with your family and friends, if you enjoyed it.

Previous In Series: What is evolution and what are its different mechanisms?

One thought on “How Organisms Adapt To Change?

Leave a Reply