African Savanna Animal Adaptations: Camouflage
The savanna is a kind of biome (a community of similar ecosystems that share the same climate) primarily made up of grasses and trees. In a savanna, the trees are more scattered than in the forest, which allows the grass to thrive. There are savannas all over the earth—in Africa, Asia, South America, and Australia. As with any biome, the savanna presents certain conditions that animal and plant life must adapt to in order to survive.
A dry season is one characteristic of a savanna biome. Animals adapt to the shortage of water and food through various ways, including migrating (moving to another area) and hibernating until the season is over. Grazing animals, like gazelles and zebras, feed on grasses and often use camouflage to protect themselves from predators when they are roaming in the open. Some animals, such as small mammals and rodents, use camouflage to blend in with their surroundings and have grass-colored tan fur. These small animals also avoid predators by burrowing underground and by being nocturnal (active during nighttime).
African savanna animals like zebras live in herds and are protected from natural predators like lions because their striped pattern makes it difficult to pick out a single zebra from the group (which confuses the lion because it cannot focus on a single target to attack). Savanna animals like zebras aren’t just protected by camouflage—they can run fast too, up to 40 mph! Some are great at zigzagging while running, making them even harder to catch.
However, carnivores use camouflage and speed to survive too. Cheetahs have a spotted pattern in their tan coat to help hide them while they’re stalking prey, and can also run up to 65 mph (and accelerate 7 mph each stride)!
Let’s test your friend’s predatory abilities and see if the animal adaptation of camouflage really does help animals, like those that live in the savanna, escape detection!
How easily can people see hidden, camouflaged pieces of paper?
- 2 sheets of newspaper with text only
- 3-5 sheets of colored construction paper
- Do your friends have super-duper predator vision? In nature, animals sometimes hide on backgrounds that look like them. This is called camouflage. In this experiment, you’ll test your friend to see whether he can see camouflaged pieces of paper.
- First, get a big piece of newspaper. This is your background for the experiment. It’s where you’ll hide the other pieces of paper.
- Next, cut pieces of the different colors of construction paper into rectangles that are 2 inches high and 4 inches wide. Make five of these pieces.
- Now cut five pieces out of a second piece of newspaper. These rectangles should be the same size as the pieces of copy paper. Avoid pieces with photos on them.
- Put the big piece of newspaper on the floor, and arrange the squares of colored paper and newspaper on the big piece of newspaper.
- Create a hypothesis, your best guess as to what is going to happen. How many rectangles will your friend see?
- Bring your friend into the room with his eyes closed. Get him to look at the newspaper for a second, then turn around and report to you. How many rectangles did he see?
- What would happen if you let your friend look for a longer amount of time? How long does it take him to see all of the rectangles?