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Physical Adaptation
We can see some of the results of physical adaptation by comparing the skeletons of different animals. The skeletons of most land animals have the same basic parts: a spine (which may include a tail), ribs, four limbs, and a skull. The number and relative placement of different bones is often similar in different animals, but the shape and use of a particular bone may be quite different.

Image of a Trachodon skeleton.
Trachodon skeleton.
Photo 2000-www.arttoday.com

Look at the teeth in the two dinosaur skulls below. One set of teeth is adapted to tear off chunks of flesh, while the other is adapted to grind up thick vegetation before swallowing. Can you figure out which is which?

Image of a Ceratosaurus skull and a Triceratops skull.
Left: Ceratosaurus skull. Right: Triceratops skull.

Compare the four bird feet shown below. Each is adapted to help its owner survive in a particular physical environment. Can you determine what special functions each of these feet is adapted to perform?

Image showing the feet of four different birds: Heron, Eagle, Duck, and Sparrow.  This image also shows bones in the forelimbs of four different animals: a bat's arm, a human's arm, a bird's wing, and a horse's foreleg.  Please have someone assist you with this.

The drawing above shows the bones in the forelimbs of four different animals: a bat's arm, a human's arm, a bird's wing, and a horse's foreleg. All four of these animals are descended from a common four-limbed ancestor that lived hundreds of millions of years ago, so the number and placement of the bones are similar in each forelimb. However, because of changing conditions over time, the shapes of the bones have adapted over many generations to perform the function needed by each animal for its survival.

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Adaptation | Environment | Environmental Change | Physical Adaptation

Diversity | Adaptation | Plate Tectonics | Cycles | Spheres | Biomes | Geologic Time

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Last updated on
April 28, 2005

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