GCSE BIOLOGY REVISION: ADAPTATIONS
Please note: Text in bold is what the AQA GCSE biology specification requires an understanding of.
Students should be able to explain how organisms are adapted to live in their natural environment, given appropriate information.
Questions based on this area of the specification will be expecting you to use information that you have previously to apply to the specific question. Here you should only give relevant points. They are not questioning how much you can remember, they want to know whether you understand what you have learnt so that it can be applied. The best way to get good at these types of questions is purely through practice. Find yourself questions from school, your textbook, revision guides or past paper questions. You can even use different exam board questions as all exam boards hold the same principles helping you to gain valuable skills. Through learning some case study examples, you will become familiar with the purpose of certain adaptations and should be able to recognise them if the question gives you a picture of the organism. Remember, think what type of environment the animal lives in. The question may ask you for adaptations but they are really asking for useful adaptations, there is no point listing features that are not beneficial to survival. It is vital that you read the question carefully.
Organisms have features (adaptations) that enable them to survive in the conditions in which they normally live. These adaptations may be structural, behavioural or functional.
It is important to know the difference between structural, behavioural and functional adaptations. You will be credited 0 marks if the question asks you for 2 structural adaptations and you give 2 functional. Again, they are not testing whether you can do fact recall, they want to know that you know the difference between different adaptations. Structural adaptations are physical features of an organism, like having a tail. Behavioural adaptations are the things that an organism does to survive, these are learnt actions. Functional adaptations are those that help the organism to survive, the difference being that they are innate functions. This means they are not learnt, for example, a plant being able to photosynthesise is a functional adaptation.
Types of adaptations examples:
Structural- streamlined body, furr, long neck
Behavioural- mating dance, migration
Functional- colour change, camouflage
Some example animals to consider learning: camels, polar bears, marsupial moles, placental mammals, marsupial kangaroos, chameleons, penguins…. The specification does not require you to learn loads, but learning extra examples will do no harm! You have probably been given good examples in your lessons.
Some organisms live in environments that are very extreme, such as at high temperature, pressure, or salt concentration. These organisms are called extremophiles. Bacteria living in deep sea vents are extremophiles.
Make sure that you able to define extremophiles or recognise that an organism is one. They live in extreme conditions that the majority of organisms cannot survive in, this is because they are specially adapted to do so. Thermophiles are extremophiles adapted to living in very hot temperatures. Halophiles thrive in high salt concentrations. You will not be expected to know the names of different extremophiles, that’s just a little extra knowledge!