How Habitats Make Life possible on Earth

All over planet Earth are found animals, especially insects, but also birds, mammals and reptiles.  Some animals require a very specific habitat in which to survive. Some examples of animals adapted to a very specific environment include the marsupials of Australia,  primates that live primarily in rain forests, snakes in tropical and sometimes desert areas, penguins in Antarctica and polar bears at the far north Arctic. Think about bears, canines (dogs), or cats. There are almost as many species of these as there are different places.

These are just a few of the many habitat dependent animals on the very diverse globe.  Animals are uniquely adapted by evolution in their particular environments. Animals in areas far from predators, human development and competing species often develop very unique traits. This is what Charles Darwin found in the nineteenth century.  Each animal has its own habitat in which particular traits allowed the species to thrive. 

To create a circle of varying animals, students could act out their language, behavior, colors, skin, hair or fur.  Most of these things tell us something about where animals live.  To choose a favorite animal to represent requires that for each creature chosen, the student would have to describe a very particular habitat and learn why that animal depends so much upon it. Tigers, for example need a wide range and a variety of prey for a carnivorous diet. This is why big cats confined in zoos often pace, and display distress. As their habitat is critically endangered by human needs, tigers are disappearing from their particular, natural habitats.

Darwin studied and cataloged  the features of Galapagos tortoises and finches.  He learned that depending upon the habitat, each animal is uniquely designed.  Some finch species had long beaks just right for the plants found in their habitat.  Others had strong, tough beaks for cracking nuts.  Some animals that were land dwelling on mainland continents, were found to be marine dwellers, such as the unique Galapagos  iguana.  Charles Darwin famously used all the data he collected on animals and their habitats to support a theory he had which demonstrated that species change over time, to better live in their individual habitats.

Animals not only live in specific habitats, but they also are active at different times. Bats, owls and some small primates are nocturnal. They hunt at night. Some big cats such as lions, leopards and  tigers are known to sleep by day, and become more active just as the sun sets.  These different schedules allow many animals to coexist together.

Animals that are domesticated, such as cows, goats, sheep, cats, dogs and modern humans have been introduced, and adapted, to many environments. In cold regions a sheep will survive if thick, woolly hair is inherited from his or her parent sheep.  In this manner, humans have shaped not just animals, but their habitats as well.

Species that cannot adapt to new regions often go extinct.  On earth today, many animals are not so much under threat of disappearing because of their traits, but because their habitats are shrinking. In some cases, the animals are hunted, or destroyed. But more often, other invasive animals, such as cattle and pigs in Hawaii, are heartier species than the native birds and mammals.  The native species perish over time. Other threats to habitat include Climate change and development.  Polar bears and penguins depend upon sea ice to hunt, for example,.  When their habitat declines, their numbers fall of drastically.

Habitats for people matter too.  People need biodiversity to exist on the planet. This is because all living species contribute to the health and whole of habitat. Bees, butterflies, beetles, birds, bats and more, are pollinators. Since most animals depend on plants to eat, having vegetation growing is crucial for all animals, including people. 

Health of water ways, soil, prevention of erosion, limiting pollution and human development all are very important for biodiversity to sustain life on Earth. Although people can live in harsh developments, they would live in constant hardship were it not for the wide variety of life on the planet.  Animals and the plants they disperse, create, maintain, and make life possible.