Grasslands and Forests | Terrestrial Habitats of Animals-II
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Habitat of Animals

Concept: Terrestrial Habitats of Animals-II

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Grasslands :

  • Grasslands occupy 25% of the earth’s surface. They are the home of the largest terrestrial mammal Elephant, the fastest runner Cheetah, the largest bird Ostrich and the heaviest snake Anaconda.
  • The vegetation type in grassland is mainly dominated by grass and small plants.
  • Dry climate prevails in grasslands throughout the year.
  • The annual rainfall is less and comparable to forests.
  • Lack of nutrients in soil implies poor vegetation.
  • Grasslands are occupied by many grazing animals like zebra, gazelles, giraffes, wildebeest, rhinoceros etc.
  • Carnivores like lions, leopards and cheetahs are also an important part of the food chain in a grassland ecosystem.

Adaptations of animals in a grassland :

  • Animals in grasslands are either predators or prey. They are quick and are capable of reaching very high speeds while running.
  • The birds found in grasslands make nests in the ground due to a lack of trees.
  • The animals are highly evolved for camouflage. It helps them to hide in the open grounds.
  • The herbivores in grasslands generally live in aggregates because it helps them escape the predators and protect their group members.
  • Some animals make burrows to survive in the extreme weather conditions prevailing in the grasslands at certain times of the year.

Let us now have a look at some grassland animals and their specific adaptations—

a. Lion :

  • A lion is quick, agile, and an excellent runner making it a great predator.
  • Their paws are accompanied by strong claws, which can be taken in when not required so that they may not wear out and get blunt.
  • The eyes of a lion are located in front of its head which enables it to determine the exact location of its prey.
  • The lion’s body colour helps it hide well in the grassland while hunting.

b. Deer :

  • A deer has big ears, which helps it hear even the faintest sounds.
  • It has strong limbs, which enables it to run swiftly.
  • The eyes of a deer are located on the sides of its head, which provides a wider view of vision.
  • Its body colour helps it to camouflage with the surroundings.
  • A deer’s teeth are strong and adapted to chew both hard and soft parts of the vegetation.

c. Long-billed curlew :

  • Its body resembles the shape of a football.
  • They use their long beaks to peck on the insects found in dry grasslands.
  • They breed in grasslands that are occupied by short grasses and bushes.

d. African elephants :

  • These are the largest terrestrial mammals on the earth.
  • They have large ears to radiate the body’s heat and keep their body cool. Flapping the ears decreases their body temperature by around 10 degrees.
  • They are adapted to walk long distances.
  • They use their tusks to dig for water in the grasslands during the dry season, and other animals too access this water.
  • Their skin is wrinkled, which enables them to store water. Hence, one water bath can help the elephants keep their body cool for a long time.

e. Zebra :

  • Zebras have stripes on their bodies that help them to camouflage with their surroundings.
  • They live in herds for protecting themselves from predators.
  • They have an excellent sense of hearing and vision and can run up to a speed of 35 miles per hour.
  • Zebras kick their enemies and hunters and their kicks are strong enough to break their bones.

Forests :

  • Forests are the home to almost 80 per cent of flora and fauna.
  • Forests play a vital role in oxygen production.
  • Along with plants and animals, they serve as the habitat for human beings, especially the tribal population.Along with plants and animals, they serve as the habitat for human beings, especially the tribal population.
  • Vegetation in a forest can be divided into four layers as shown in the picture—
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Adaptations of animals in forests :

The following types of adaptations are seen in the animals residing in forests. Each of these adaptations is explained with the help of examples.

Camouflage :

  • It is a type of adaptation that allows an animal to blend with its surroundings.
  • Due to their skin colouration and skin texture, the animals appear in such a way that it becomes difficult to isolate them from their surroundings.
  • So, the predator cannot spot such an animal in the forest.

a. Green-eyed tree frog :

The frog has a flap of textured skin around its body which gives it an appearance similar to that of the bark of a tree.

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b. Leaf-tailed gecko :

This animal looks like a leaf and hides in a pile of leaves. Its body colour exactly matches a dry leaf.

Mimicry :

  • Some animals are adapted to look like other objects and animals around them. This type of adaptation is called mimicry.

Example : An animal called Katydid (or long-horned grasshopper) appears like a leaf and mimics a stinging wasp.

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Limited diet :

Some animals residing in the forest have adapted themselves to a limited diet in order to lower the competition for food.

a. Toucan bird:

  • It is a fruit-eating bird with a unique beak.
  • It eats fruits that are not easily accessible to other animals or birds.
  • The long and large beak helps this bird reach the fruits attached to the thin branches of the tree.
  • It is an adaptation to get the unreachable fruits.

Highly poisonous :

  • Animals in the tropical rainforest are brightly coloured and highly poisonous, enabling them to survive in an environment surrounded by many predators.
  • Poison dart frogs vary in colours and are highly poisonous, due to which most of the predators stay away from them.
  • Lobster moths have an eye-like pattern on their wings which keeps them unharmed. They are also mildly poisonous.

Reduction in size and stature :

  • Due to dense understorey, it will be difficult for large animals to move freely in dense forests.
  • Hence, they have a reduced size compared to animals in other habitats.
  • Jaguars, for example, grow only up to 6 feet. Their stocky build help them run faster in the dense forest
  • The snakes can curl their body to accommodate themselves in small spaces like holes in the trees, over branches, and in pits in the ground. Snakes in a forest may grow up to 20-30 feet.

Arboreal nature :

  • To avoid the competition for food and space in the lower layers of the forest, some animal species have adapted the arboreal habitat.
  • They spend most of their time clinging to trees.
  • Spider monkeys have long tails and are generally found in the forest canopy.
  • Sloths like hanging upside down from the branches of high trees.
  • Sloths move very slowly so that the predators do not identify them. Due to their slow movements, algae grow on their fur, which helps them camouflage with their surroundings.
  • Sloths have three extra bones in their necks which allows them to rotate their necks up to 270 degrees.

New Words

Herd: A large group of animals that live together.

Flora: Plants of a particular habitat.

Fauna: Animals of a particular habitat.

Arboreal:Living in trees.

Did You Know?

  • Every year, March 21 is celebrated as International Forest Day.
  • The Amazon Rainforest is the home of 2.5 million species of insects.
  • Trees reduce noise by blocking soundwaves.
  • Wombat poo is an animal with a square-shaped body that prevents it from rolling away.
  • Grey squirrels bury seeds in the ground and often forget, and it helps in the growth of new plants.
  • The slow loris is the only venomous mammal on the earth.
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