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Adaptation

Adaptation

Adaptation is a term used to describe the ways in which organisms change over time in response to the changing demands of their environment. Organisms seem to accumulate certain physiological, behavioral, and structural traits gradually, and these traits aid them in their ability to survive and reproduce under existing environmental conditions. The grasping hands of primates, the sensitive antennae of insects, and the flowers and fruits of plants are all forms of adaptation that promote survival, reproduction, or both.

Historical background

Up until the eighteenth century, scientists generally believed that every species was created separately and remained unchanged for centuries. Many features of living thingsthe bee's sting, the vertebrate (an animal with a backbone) eye, the human brainappeared to have been designed by a master engineer to serve their specific purpose. A philosophy known as natural theology, which arose in the seventeenth century, argued that the elegant and often complex features of organisms were the products of a direct design by God.

But during the eighteenth century, the scientific community began to take a closer look at the immense diversity (the vast differences) and interrelatedness of (connections between) living things. The excavation of plant and animal fossils prompted a new view that life on Earth developed gradually and unevenly from simple to advanced organisms. The observation that species have "adapted" to survive in particular habitats raised new questions about the ways organisms could "fine-tune" themselves to meet the demands of their environment.

Words to Know

Adaptation: From the Latin ad ("toward") plus aptus ("fit for some role"); any structural, physiological, or behavioral trait that aids an organism's survival and ability to reproduce in its existing environment.

Coadaptation: Mutual dependence between members of two species.

Evolution: The theory that all plants and animals developed gradually from earlier forms over a long period of time and that variations within a species are the result of adaptive traits passed on from generation to generation.

Exaptation: Any adapted trait that performs a beneficial function different from the one it originally evolved to serve.

Natural selection: A natural process that results in the survival of individuals or groups best adapted to the conditions in which they must exist.

Different species that live in different environments often exhibit similar characteristics. Fish, whales, and penguins all use fins or flippers to propel themselves through water. The common plan of such features demanded an explanation, so researchers set out to explain this similarity of traits in unrelated organisms.

The Peppered Moth

Henry Bernard David Kettlewell's study of the peppered moth, Biston betularia, is one of the most widely cited cases of natural selection producing adaptation. Before the Industrial Revolution in England in the late 1800s, this moth was predominantly light in color. (The Industrial Revolution was a time of major change in England's economy, marked mainly by the introduction of power-driven machinery.) Light coloring afforded perfect camouflage for the moth from predatory birds, since it blended so well with the similarly colored lichen-covered tree trunks on which it rested. When pollution from factories caused the lichen on the trees to die, the moths' resting place became the darker color of the bark beneath. Kettlewell observed that, as this environmental transformation occurred, a dark form of the moth became increasingly common, eventually making up more than 90 percent of the population of moths in the affected areas. In the unpolluted areas, however, the original light form of the moth remained common.

Kettlewell attributed the moth's color change to selection by predatory birds, which locate the moths by sight, and so remove (by eating) individual moths that do not blend in with the background coloration of trees in their environment. He tested his idea that the moths' color protected them from predation (being captured) by placing each of the two forms on trees in different areas, photographing birds in the act of capturing moths, and measuring the rates at which the two moth forms were eaten by birds. Kettlewell concluded that the moths' color was indeed the result of adaptation to conditions in their habitat.

One effort to explain adapted traits was proposed by French botanist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (17441829). In 1809, he theorized that changes in the environment cause structural changes during an organism's life that are passed on to offspring. According to the notion of the inheritance of acquired characteristics, also known as Lamarckism, giraffes would have "acquired" their long necks from stretching to reach leaves not available to other animals. Members of each succeeding generation stretched their necks to attain leaves at a higher level, which led to the modern giraffe. Although Lamarck's theory was later discredited, he remains the first scientist to acknowledge the adaptability of organisms.

In 1859, Charles Darwin (18091882), the great English naturalist, published his influential book The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. In it, Darwin discusses the adaptations of organisms as the product of natural selection. Natural selection implies thatwhen forced to compete for limited resources such as foodthose organisms best adapted to their specific environment are most likely to survive, reproduce, and transmit their traits to offspring.

Biologists now recognize natural selection as the means by which evolutionary adaptation occurs. Exactly how specific adaptations arise, however, is far from solved. It is easy to imagine how natural selection might produce relatively simple adaptations such as camouflage: a rabbit that lives in regions covered by snow in winter is better protected from prey if it produces a white coat during the winter months. The difficulty arises in explaining the evolution of extremely complex adaptations, such as the vertebrate eye. Invertebrates, animals lacking a backbone, have simple eyes that detect only changes in light and form only a poor image at

best. Vertebrates, animals with a backbone, detect changes in light and motion and can form detailed images. How did such a superb adaptation come about?

Darwin suggested the answer lies in very gradual changes over many generations, in which each intermediate stage leading to a fully formed eye had some adaptive value. All the parts making up a fully functioning eye could evolve independently in small steps, each one building on and interacting with earlier changes. Thus, even a partially developed eye could be quite advantageousindeed, could mean the difference between life and deathfor an ancient vertebrate.

Examples of adaptation

Physiological adaptation. People who visit or live at high altitudes undergo physiological changes (adaptations) to adjust to the low-oxygen environment. Travelers to these areas commonly experience hypoxia, a condition of low oxygen in the blood. To compensate for the temporary drop in oxygen, vacationers' bodies speed up the oxygenation process: they breathe at a faster rate, their hearts speed up and pump more strongly to send more blood throughout the body, and they produce more red blood cells to carry oxygen to body tissues. Over a longer period, as the body adjusts to the change in altitude, the heart output and ventilation rate return to normal levels, but the red blood cell count continues to climb. The most famous of all high-altitude peoples are the Sherpas of Nepal, whose climbing feats offer a stunning example of evolved adaptation.

Evolutionary adaptation. Some of the most interesting cases of adaptation occur when two species evolve together so that each benefits from the other. This mutual dependence can be seen between the ant Formica fusca and the larval (not yet fully developed) stage of the lycaenid butterfly Glaucopsyche lygdamus. The butterfly caterpillar produces a sweet "honeydew" solution that the ants harvest as food. In return, the ants defend the caterpillar against parasitic wasps and flies. The mutual adaptation of two species in this manner is known as coadaptation.

Interactions between species are not always beneficial for both members, however. Heliconius butterflies scatter the pollen from the flowers of Passiflora vines, benefitting the plant. But female butterflies also lay single eggs on young Passiflora shoots, and the developing larva may eat the entire shoot, a definite cost to the plant. As an apparent adaptive response, several Passiflora species produce new shoots featuring a small structure that closely resembles a Heliconius egg. A female butterfly that sees this "egg" will avoid laying her own egg there, and the shoot will be spared.

Current approaches to adaptation

Some researchers draw a distinction between current use and the historical origin of adaptive traits. This distinction has led researchers Stephen Jay Gould and Elisabeth Vrba to suggest the term exaptation to describe traits that were originally intended to perform different functions in an organism. For instance, the observation that a white coat helps camouflage a snowshoe hare in the snow does not provide information about the origin of the species' white fur. It may have evolved for its improved heating properties and only by chance proved to be advantageous as camouflage. In some cases, therefore, the features we recognize as adaptive are really only secondary uses of traits that originally arose for other reasons.

[See also Evolution ]

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Adaptation

ADAPTATION

The act or process of modifying an object to render it suitable for a particular or new purpose or situation.

In the law of patents—grants by the government to inventors for the exclusive right to manufacture, use, or market inventions for a term of years—adaptation denotes a category of patentable inventions, which entails the application of an existing product or process to a new use, accompanied by the exercise of inventive faculties. Federal law provides: "Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefore, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title." 35 U.S.C.A. §101.

The adaptation of a device to a different field can constitute an invention if inventiveness exists in the conception of new use and with modifications necessary to render the device applicable in the new field. The progressive adaptation of well-known devices to new, but similar, uses is merely a display of an expected technical proficiency, which involves only the exercise of common reasoning abilities upon materials furnished by special knowledge ensuing from continual practice. It, therefore, does not represent a patentable invention. Ingenuity beyond the mere adaptation of teachings as could be done by a skilled mechanic is required to achieve a patentable invention; inventive talent, rather than skill in adaptation, must be manifested. To entitle a party to the benefit of the patent statute, the device must not only be new; it must be inventively new. The readaptation of old forms to new roles does not constitute invention where there is no significant alteration in the method of applying it or in the nature of the result obtained. No invention will be recognized if the new form of the result has not previously been contemplated and, irrespective of the remoteness of the new use from the old, if no modifications in the old device are necessary to adapt it to the new use.

Invention is generally not involved where an old process, device, or method is applied to a new subject or use that is analogous to the old or to a new use or the production of a new result in the same or analogous field. If the new use is so comparable to the old that the concept of adapting the device to the new use would occur to a person proficient in the art and interested in devising a method of changing the intended function, there is no invention even though significant alterations have been made. The application of an old device to a new use is normally patentable only if the new use is in a different field or involves a completely novel function. In addition, the physical modifications need not be extensive, as long as they are essential to the objective.

In the law of copyrights the exclusive right of the author of a literary project to reproduce, publish, and sell his or her work, which is granted by statute, adaptation refers to the creation of a derivative work, which is protected by federal copyright laws.

A derivative work involves a recasting or translation process that incorporates preexisting material capable of protection by copyright. An adaptation is copyrighted if it meets the requirement of originality, in the sense that the author has created it by his or her own proficiency, labor, and judgment without directly copying or subtly imitating the preexisting material. Mere minor alterations will not suffice. In addition the adapter must procure the consent of the copyright owner of the underlying work if he or she wants to copy from such work. The copyright in a derivative work, however, extends only to the material contributed by the adapter and does not affect the copyright protection afforded to the preexisting material.

The rise in the use of digital media has caused new dilemmas in the area of copyright law with respect to adaptations. Even average technology users may make copies and adapt the original works to their needs. Recent issues in this area have focused upon intellectual property rights in the context of the internet and computer programs.

Even average computer users are now capable of copying digital music files and modifying them through the use of software. The Internet now allows these users to prepare these modifications and distribute them to a wide audience using the Web, e-mail, and other methods of distribution. The Copyright Act of 1976 continues to protect the copyright holders, generally requiring those who prepared derivative works to obtain permission from the copyright holder (17 U.S.C.A. § 114(b) [1996]). However, enforcement of these provisions has proven difficult and led to a number of efforts, including those by the Recording Industry Association of America, to find new methods for protecting the rights of the copyright holders.

A second cause of concern among copyright owners is the ability of computer users to make copies of computer program and adopt these programs to serve the users' purposes. The Copyright Act provides an exclusive right to the copyright holders of computer programs and allows owners of copies of these programs to make additional copies only in limited circumstances (17 U.S.C.A. § 117 [1996]). Like sound recordings, protection of these copyrights has proven difficult, leading lawmakers to consider a number of new options to protect these rights.

In the law of real property, with respect to fixtures (articles that were personal property but became part of the realty through annexation to the premises), adaptation is the relationship between the article and the use that is made of the realty to which the article is annexed.

The prevailing view is that the adaptation or appropriation of an article affixed to real property for the purpose or use to which the premises are devoted is an important consideration in ascertaining its status as a fixture. According to this theory, if the article facilitates the realization of the purpose of the real property, the annexor presumably intends it to be a permanent accession. Numerous other cases, however, allude to the adaptation of an item to the use to which the premises are designated, as merely one of the tests or factors that should or must be evaluated in determining that it constitutes real property. Other cases view the character of the use of the article annexed as significant.

The special construction or fitting of an article for location and use on certain land or in a particular building, which mitigates against use in another location, indicates that is was intended to constitute a part of the land.

The adaptability of an annexed article for use in another location is sometimes viewed as demonstrating the retention of its character as personalty (personal property), but this characteristic is not conclusive. Articles not designed to comprise the realty retain their character as personalty.

further readings

Benn, Marvin N., and Richard J. Superfine. 1994. "§ 117—The Right to Adapt into the Fourth Generation and the Source Code Generator's Dilemma." John Marshall Journal of Computer and Information Law 537.

Miller, Arthur R., and Michael H. Davis. 2000. Intellectual Property: Patents, Trademarks, and Copyright in a Nutshell. 3d ed. St. Paul, Minn.: West Group.

Plotkin, Mark E., ed. 2003. E-Commerce Law & Business. New York: Aspen.

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Adaptation

Adaptation

To survive and reproduce, all living organisms must adjust to conditions imposed on them by their environments. An organism's environment includes everything impinging upon it, as well as everything that is affected by that organism. Conformity between an organism and its environment constitutes what biologists call adaptation.

Biotic and Abiotic Environments

Plants and animals have adapted to their environments genetically and by means of physiological, behavioral, or developmental flexibility, including both instinctive behavior and learning. Adaptation has many dimensions in that most organisms must conform simultaneously to numerous different aspects of their environments. Adaptation involves coping not only with the physical abiotic environment (light, dark, temperature, water, wind), but also with the complex biotic environment (other organisms such as mates, competitors, parasites , predators, and escape tactics of prey). Conflicting demands of these various environmental components often require that an organism compromise in its adaptations to each.

Conformity to any given dimension requires a certain amount of energy that is then no longer available for other adaptations. The presence of predators, for example, may require that an animal be wary, which in turn is likely to reduce its feeding efficiency and hence its competitive ability.

For a small bird, trees are an important part of its environment: They offer vital shade during the heat of a hot summer day, places to forage for insects, safety from ground-dwelling predators, and safe places to build nests and raise chicks. Blades of grass or hairs used to line a bird's nest are also important components of a bird's environment. During the dangerous night, a bird copes with nocturnal predators such as raccoons by sleeping perched on a small twig high above the ground. While gleaning tiny insects from tree leaves during the day, a bird remains alert for diurnal predators like hawks.

Many birds cope with changing seasonal conditions by migrating to warmer places at lower latitudes where there is more food. Over eons of time, natural selection has molded birds to make them effective at escaping from the predictable dire consequences of winter (a time of high mortality). Birds that did not successfully evade winter's icy clutches died without leaving any surviving offspring, whereas those that migrated survived to pass on their genes. Natural selection has endowed birds with a built-in biological clock, which they compare against day length, effectively giving them a builtin calendar. Changing day length affects a bird's pituitary gland, causing it to secrete hormones that control avian behavior. Short autumn days elicit a "wanderlust," ultimately leading to migratory behavior. Experiments with migrating birds in planetaria have shown that tiny bird brains have been hard-wired so that they contain a map of the stars. Indeed, natural selection "invented" celestial navigation.

Factors that Affect Adaptation

Organisms can conform to and cope with a highly predictable environment relatively easily, even when it changes in a regular way, as long as the changes are not too extreme. Adaptation to an unpredictable environment is usually more difficult; adapting to extremely erratic environments may even prove impossible. Many organisms have evolved dormant stages that allow them to survive unfavorable periods, both predictable and unpredictable. Brine shrimp in deserts and annual plants everywhere are good examples. Brine shrimp eggs survive for years in the salty crust of dry desert lakes; when a rare desert rain fills one of these lakes, the eggs hatch, the shrimp grow rapidly to adults, and they produce many eggs. Some plant seeds known to be many centuries old are still viable and have been germinated.

Very small undirected changes in the physical environment can sometimes improve the level of adaptation between an organism and its environment, but large changes are almost always detrimental. Changes in the environment that reduce overall adaptation are collectively termed the "deterioration of environment." Such changes cause directional selection resulting in accommodation to the new environment, or adaptation. Changes in biotic environments (such as the hunting efficiency of an organism's predator) are usually directed and typically reduce the level of adaptation.

Every individual is simultaneously a member of a population, a species, and a community; therefore, it must be adapted to cope with each and must be considered in that context. An individual's fitnessits ability to perpetuate itself as measured by its reproductive successis greatly influenced by its status within its own population. An individual might be a resident or a vagrant, mated or unmated, or high or low in a pecking order, all factors that strongly affect its fitness. Any given individual's fitness is also influenced by various interspecific associations of its species and especially by the particular community in which it finds itself embedded.

"Arms Races"

Individuals and species must "track" their environments in ecological and evolutionary time, adapting and evolving as their environments change. Natural selection acting on natural enemies (prey, parasites, and predators) will always result in a deterioration of an organism's biotic environment, diminishing fitness. Every prey-predator or host-parasite interaction constitutes an escalating "arms race," in which moves alternate with countermoves.

Prey that are better able to escape from their predators, or hosts that can better resist infection by parasites, will enjoy a fitness advantage. But better predators and better parasites are also favored by natural selection themselves, assuring that the arms race will continue to escalate indefinitely. Indeed, most species are probably evolving rapidly just to maintain a given current level of adaptation in the face of a continually deteriorating environment. Still other interactions between species are mutually beneficial, resulting in increased fitness for both parties, such as between plants and their pollinators.

Any genetically based physiological, behavioral, or ecological trait that enables an organism to cope with, and to survive and reproduce in, its environment represents an adaptation. Some traits may not be adaptive but simply leftover vestiges of traits that once were adaptive. A given trait can also be "preadapted" if it was formerly adaptive under some prior set of conditions now gone but is later co-opted as the basis of a new adaptation under some new environmental conditions. For instance, it is likely that bird feathers were initially important for temperature regulation, rather than for flying.

see also Community; Convergent Evolution; Evolution; Natural Selection; Parasitic Diseases; Pituitary Gland; Population Dynamics; Predation and Defense; Sexual Selection; Symbiosis

Eric R. Pianka

Bibliography

Fisher, Ronald A. The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1930.

Pianka, Eric. R. Evolutionary Ecology, 6th ed. San Francisco: Addison-Wesley-Longman, 2000.

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Adaptation

ADAPTATION

Adaptation is not part of Freudian vocabulary (it does not appear in the index of the Standard Edition, for example). The idea of adaptation, however, is present throughout Freud's work. It appears as early as 1895, in his "Project for a Scientific Psychology" (1950a), when he discusses the mechanisms of perception, attention and memory. The idea runs through all of Freud's subsequent work whenever he discusses the relation between psychic reality and the "reality of the outside world." It is found, for example, in "Instincts and their Vicissitudes" (1915c) and "Repression" (1915d), when he writes that dangers that can't be avoided through behavioral means are "rejected toward the interior." Other texts where the concept appears include "Neurosis and Psychosis" (1924b), "The Loss of Reality in Neurosis and Psychosis" (1924e), and "An Outline of Psycho-Analysis" (1940a). In fact, there are few texts by Freud where the question of adaptation isn't found, even if the word itself rarely appears.

Adaptation and the related theoretical issues are central to the development of ego-psychology, which was, for the most part, based on Freud's structural theory and the work of Anna Freud (1936/1937) and Heinz Hartmann, author of Ego Psychology and the Problem of Adaptation (1938/1958). It was in this period that a theorical schism developed, leading to differences in clinical psychoanalytic practice between those analysts (especially English-speaking) who adapted this point of view and those who preferred other options, either along the lines developed by Melanie Klein and her successors or the rather different approach taken by Lacan and his successors.

Jacques Lacan was, in fact, highly critical of the primacy given to the problems of adaptation in ego-psychology. He emphasized that naively establishing "external reality" as a given prior to and outside of psychic activity is a theoretical absurdity since that exterior reality is constructed through close interaction with psychic reality itself. He also pointed out the dangers of an analytical practice in which the analyst, within the framework of a normative and "normalizing" enterprise, developed mastery, or even a sense of excessive power, in assuming that his or her own "adaptation" is by definition better than that of the patient. Whatever one might think of these criticisms and their rebuttals, there is little doubt that they have had considerable impact, well beyond the field of Lacanian thought, especially in the French-speaking world. Unfortunately, this has had the effect of "throwing the baby out with the bathwater" through the unjustified condemnation of any psychoanalytic consideration of the problems of adaptation. These problems cannot be avoided, however, to the extent that psychic processes are constantly being adjusted in terms of their internal equilibrium and modified as a result of the impact of outside events.

Roger Perron

See also: Defense; Ego; Ego Psychology and the Problem of Adaptation ; Individuation (analytical psychology); Kardiner, Abram; Normality; Pichon-Rivière, Enrique; Self (true/false).

Bibliography

Canguilhem, Georges. (1989). The normal and the pathological (Carolyn R. Fawcett & Robert S. Cohen, Trans.). New York: Zone Books. (Original work published 1966)

Freud, Anna. (1937). The ego and the mechanisms of defense. London: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1936)

Freud, Sigmund. (1915c). Instincts and their vicissitudes. SE, 14: 109-140.

. (1915d). Repression. SE, 14: 141-158.

. (1924b [1923]). Neurosis and psychosis. SE, 19: 147-153.

. (1924e). The loss of reality in neurosis and psychosis. SE, 19: 180-187.

. (1940a [1938]). An outline of psycho-analysis. SE, 23: 139-207.

. (1950a [1887-1902]). Extracts from the Fliess papers. SE, 1: 173-280.

Hartmann Heinz. (1958). Ego psychology and the problem of adaptation (David Rapaport, Trans.). New York: International Universities Press. (Original work published 1938)

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Adaptation

Adaptation

Adaptations are the most important features of all organisms. An adaptation is a trait or characteristic that makes an animal survive or reproduce better in its environment. These traits can be morphological , physiological , or behavioral . Adaptations include almost all kinds of traits, such as what makes an organism blend into its surroundings, find food, mate with the correct species, and be able to survive.

An example of a morphological adaptation that increases the chance of survival is the coloration of an animal. Most animals that live in the arctic snow are white. Being white helps them blend in with the snow and hide from predators. An example of a physiological adaptation that increases the likelihood of survival is the kangaroo rat's metabolism. Kangaroo rats live in the desert of the North American Southwest. It is extremely hot and dry there, and very little water is available. The kangaroo rat never needs to drink water because its metabolism has changed and adapted to conserve water; it gets all the water it needs from seeds it eats. Humans are the opposite; we must drink water daily because our metabolism uses lots of water. An example of a behavioral adaptation that increases reproduction is the croaking and calling of male frogs, which gets female frogs to come to the males for mating. Those frogs that call end up mating with more females and have more offspring than frogs that do not call.

Natural selection is the mechanism that produces adaptations. It is the difference in survival or reproduction between individuals with different traits. If an arctic hare, which lives in the snow, were gray rather than solid white, it would not survive as well as pure white hares. And if it does not live very long before it is killed by a predator such as a fox, then it will not produce as many offspring as a pure white hare, either. Natural selection increases the number of individuals in a population that actually has the adaptation; natural selection also maintains adaptations once animals have them.

All traits that are adaptations must have a genetic basis to them. That is to say, the trait must be produced in some way by genes , coded for by DNA. Genes enable an animal to pass on to its offspring the survival or reproductive advantage given by the adaptation.

There is one exception to the rule that adaptations need a genetic basistraits that are learned within an organism's lifetime. Something that is learned does not have a genetic basis; it was not inherited from the parents. An example of a learned adaptation is that some male songbirds learn the songs of their neighbors. Neighborhoods of birds sing similar songs, and females prefer males that know more songs. A male that has learned more songs will reproduce more; learning songs is an adaptation. But learned traits are not completely free from genetics; there is a genetic basis to the ability to learn, even if the actual learning does not have a genetic basis.

see also Biological Evolution; Morphological Evolution in Whales; Morphology; Natural Selection.

Laura A. Higgins

Bibliography

Campbell, Neil A., Jane B. Reece, and Lawrence G. Mitchell. Biology, 5th ed. Menlo Park, CA: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc., 1999.

Rose, Michael R., and George V. Lauder, eds. Adaptation. San Francisco, CA: Academic Press, 1996.

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adaptation

adaptation, in biology, has several meanings. It can mean the adjustment of living matter to environmental conditions and to other living things either in an organism's lifetime (physiological adaptation) or in a population over many many generations (evolutionary adaptation). The word can also refer to a trait that is considered an adaptation. The ability to adapt is a fundamental property of life and constitutes a basic difference between living and nonliving matter.

Most living things require free oxygen from the air or from water, but yeasts, many bacteria, and some other simple forms obtain the oxygen required for oxidation from molecules of substances that contain the element. Various animals and plants are adapted for securing their food and for surviving the extremes of temperature and of water supply in desert, tropical, and polar regions. For most organisms the optimum temperature is between about 20°C (68°F) and 40°C (104°F). Some algae and protozoans live in hot springs, and some bacteria can survive freezing or survive on chemicals, without light, in the ocean depths. Cacti can survive heat and drought. Certain fish and other aquatic animals live in deep water and are so specialized to withstand the great pressure that they burst if lifted to sea level.

Animals show anatomical adaptations—e.g., the body of the fish is suited to life in the water; the body of the bird is adapted for flight; and the land mammals show a wide variation in the structure of limbs and body that enables some to run swiftly, some to climb, some to swing from tree to tree, some to glide through the air, and others to jump. The whale, an aquatic mammal, can adjust to great pressure changes at different levels in the water. The beaks of birds vary in shape and size according to what they feed on—e.g., on seeds, on insects, on aquatic animals, or on small mammals. The feet and legs of birds also show modifications that fit them for perching, for wading, or for paddling through the water. Adaptive coloration is observed in many animals (see protective coloration). Among communal insects, such as ants and honeybees, the individuals are highly adapted to perform their functions in the community.

It is believed by many scientists that life originated in the sea and that through gradual evolutionary changes some forms became adapted to life on land. Variations may arise as a result of mutation, or of recombinations of the genes in the germ cells. Such variations are inherited (see genetics). Those that aid the organism to meet the conditions of a changing environment or help it in its competition with other living things enable it to survive and reproduce, the changes thus being passed on from one generation to another and in this way perhaps producing a new species.

See ecology; evolution; selection.

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Adaptation

Adaptation


The term adaptation refers to changes in an organism's structure, function, or behavior that increase its ability to live in a particular environment. As such, adaptation is a central term in the life sciences. The many known examples of animals and plants adapting to their environment were the basis for the theories of evolution formulated by Charles Darwin (18091882) and JeanBaptiste de Lamarck (17441829). Adaptation in the Darwinian sense describes a process of evolutionary change by natural selection. In this process the average performance of the individuals in a population with respect to survival and reproduction is improved.

The term adaptation is also used to describe the result of the process of evolutionary change (the state of being adapted) or to describe the "solution" to a problem that is set by the environment. The word is used this way in the adaptationist program, which has been criticized for explaining traits post hoc as having evolved to serve certain functions. Because the environment of any organism is continuously changing, the degree of adaptation is never optimal, and adaptation is, therefore, a never-ending process.

Not all traits in an organism or features of an organism's appearance are necessarily the result of adaptation; they may be by-products of selection acting on other traits. For example, the increased brain size in humans is considered to be a side effect of selection favoring increased body size. Specific traits can also be the result of adaptations for other functions that have since changed. For example, feathers in birds originally evolved to provide insulation, and only later were they used for flying. Physiological adaptations are plastic responses to the physical environment that occur within a lifetime and are not inherited by the next generation. Such adaptations can be of short duration and reversible, such as the adaptation of the eye to light and dark, or they may be long-lasting, such as the increased number of red blood cells in humans who live at high altitudes.

see also evolution; fitness; life sciences; selection, levels of

volker loeschcke

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Adaptation

Adaptation

Behavior that enables an organism to function effectively in its environment.

Adaptation describes the process of change in organisms or species to accommodate to a particular environment , enabling their survival. Adaptation is crucial to the process of natural selection. Ethologists, scientists who study the behavior of animals in their natural habitats from an evolutionary perspective, have documented two main types of adaptive behavior. Some behaviors, known as "closed programs," transmit from one generation to the next relatively unchanged. "Open genetic programs" involve greater degrees of environmental influence.

Adaptation occurs in individual organisms as well as in species. Sensory adaptation consists of physical changes that occur in response to the presence or cessation of stimuli. Examples include the adjustment eyes make when going from broad daylight into a darkened room and the way bodies adjust to the temperature of cold water after an initial plunge. Once a steady level of stimulation (such as light, sound, or odor) is established, we no longer notice it. However, any abrupt changes require further adaptation.

The adrenalin-produced reaction to environmental dangers called the "fight or flight" syndrome (including rapid breathing, increased heart rate, and sweating) can also be considered a form of adaptation. The psychological responses involved in classical and operant conditioning , which involve learned behaviors motivated by either positive reinforcement or fear of punishment , can also be considered adaptation.

Further Reading

Bateson, P.P.G. Perspectives in Ethology: Behavior and Evolution. New York: Vintage Books, 1993.

Lorenz, Konrad. The Foundations of Ethology. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1981.

Weiner, Jonathan. The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time. New York: Vintage Books, 1995.

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"Adaptation." Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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adaptation

adaptation
1. Generally, the adjustments that occur in animals in respect of their environments. The adjustments may occur by natural selection, as individuals with favourable genetic traits breed more prolifically than those lacking these traits (genotypic adaptation), or they may involve non-genetic changes in individuals, such as physiological modification (e.g. acclimatization) or behavioural changes (phenotypic adaptation). Compare ABAPTATION.

2. (evol.) That which fits an organism both generally and specifically to exploit a given environmental zone (e.g. wings allow birds to fly, whereas the hooked beak and sharp talons of birds of prey are more specialized adaptations well suited to a predatory way of life). The word also implies that the feature has survived because it assists its possessor in its existing niche. Compare EXAPTATION.

3. Sensory adaptation involves a decrease over time of the frequency of the impulses leaving a sensory receptor when a stimulus is repeated frequently. See ACCOMMODATION; HABITUATION.

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"adaptation." A Dictionary of Zoology. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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adaptation

adaptation
1. Generally, the adjustments that occur in animals in respect of their environments. The adjustments may occur by natural selection, as individuals with favourable genetic traits breed more prolifically than those lacking these traits (genotypic adaptation), or they may involve non-genetic changes in individuals, such as physiological modification (e.g. acclimatization) or behavioural changes (phenotypic adaptation). Compare abaptation.

2. (evol.) That which fits an organism both generally and specifically to exploit a given adaptive zone (e.g. wings allow birds to fly, whereas the hooked beak and sharp talons of birds of prey are more specialized adaptations well suited to a predatory way of life). The word also implies that the feature has survived because it assists its possessor in its existing niche. Compare exaptation.

3. A decrease over time of the frequency of the impulses leaving a sensory receptor when a stimulus is repeated frequently. See accommodation and habituation.

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adaptation

adaptation
1. (in evolution) Any change in the structure or functioning of an organism that makes it better suited to its environment. Natural selection of inheritable adaptations ultimately leads to the development of new species. Increasing adaptation of a species to a particular environment tends to diminish its ability to adapt to any sudden change in that environment.

2. (in physiology) The alteration in the degree of sensitivity (either an increase or a decrease) of a sense organ to suit conditions more extreme than normally encountered. An example is the adjustment of the eye to vision in very bright or very dim light.

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adaptation

adaptation
1. Generally, the adjustments that occur in animals in respect of their environments. The adjustments may occur by natural selection, as individuals with favourable genetic traits breed more prolifically than those lacking these traits (genotypic adaptation), or they may involve non-genetic changes in individuals, such as physiological modification (e.g. acclimatization) or behavioural changes (phenotypic adaptation). Compare ABAPTATION.

2. In an evolutionary sense, that which fits an organism both generally and specifically to exploit a given environmental zone.

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adaptation

ad·ap·ta·tion / ˌadapˈtāshən; ˌadəp-/ • n. the action or process of adapting or being adapted. ∎  a movie, television drama, or stage play that has been adapted from a written work, typically a novel. ∎  Biol. a change by which an organism or species becomes better suited to its environment: living in groups is an adaptation that increases the efficiency of hunting. ∎  the process of making such changes: biochemical adaptation in parasites.

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adaptation

adaptation Adjustment by an organism to its surroundings.

Animals and plants adapt to changes in their environment through variations in structure, reproduction or organization within communities. Some such changes are temporary (acclimatization), while others may involve changes in the genetic material (DNA) and be inherited by offspring (evolution). The word is also used to describe a particular characteristic (such as body size, shape, colour, physiology, or behaviour), that enables an organism to survive in its environment.

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adaptation

adaptation (ad-ăp-tay-shŏn) n.
1. the phenomenon in which a sense organ shows a gradually diminishing response to continuous or repetitive stimulation.

2. a process of change to enable adjustment to a condition or an environment.

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adaptation

adaptation That which fits an organism both generally and specifically to exploit a given environmental zone.

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