Form and Function

4.2 based on 11 ratings

Updated on Apr 15, 2014

Grade Level: 1st - 4th; Type: Life Science

What are the physical characteristics of animals that allow them to survive and prosper in their environments?

  • Adaptation

  • This will vary depending on the animal the student chooses to study.
  • Examples:
    • Why do zebras have black and white stripes?
    • How does the shape of a fish allow them to swim so fast?
    • Why are a monkey's arms longer than it's legs?

The animal kingdom is very diverse. There are lizards so small that they fit on a dime and blue whales longer than a city bus. Some have feet, some have fins, and some slither without any appendages at all. These animals have evolved so that the shape of their body allows them to live and flourish in their habitat, for example, primates with opposable thumbs. Unlike other animals primates are able to grasp and hold objects, which eventually led to our fine motor skills and development of tools. This evolutionary change was vital to human development and technology. What are some other physical characteristics of animals that have allowed them to survive in their habitats?

  • Computer with internet access
  • Animal reference books
  • Encyclopedia

1) Choose an animal.

a) Where does this animal live?

b) How does this animal eat?

c) Do they have predators?

2) What does this animal look like?

a) Number of legs/fins

b) Color/Pattern

c) Do they have tails?

d) What do their teeth look like?

e) What do their paws/hands look like?

3) How do these traits help them live, eat, and protect themselves and their young?


1) Lions

a) Live in the Sahara (Africa, Asia)

b) Large mammals: wildebeest, impalas, buffalo, zebras

c) No natural predators. Lions can be killed by other lions and humans.

2) Lions weigh between 250-550lbs.

a) They have 4 legs.

b) Tan in color. Males have a large mane.

c) They have a tail.

d) They have large, sharp teeth.

e) They have large paws with sharp claws.

3) A lions physical traits allow it to:

a) Run fast - large, powerful body to chase and kill large mammals.

b) Eat large mammals - large, sharp teeth allow the lion to rip through flesh and muscle.

c) Blend into their surroundings - their tan color is similar to the natural colors of the Sahara.

d) Intimidate their prey - their mane makes them appear larger and more dangerous.

Image from WildlifeDirect – Lion Guardians, African Lions Protection.

Terms/Concepts: Taxonomy; Animals; Evolution; Diversity


Melissa Bautista is a research scientist, freelance editor, and writer, with a focus in Neuroscience. She believes in establishing solid foundations in education through experience, creativity, and collaboration. She is fascinated by pedagogy and the concept of learning through living.

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