How do animals cope with extreme temperatures or defend themselves from predators? In Adaptations, students will consider what adaptations are and how they arise through the process of natural section. They will then have an opportunity to see real animal adaptations for feeding, avoiding predation, movement, extreme climate and nocturnal life, by investigating a selection of real animal skins and artefacts. Finally they will meet a live animal and find out how it is perfectly adapted for survival in its habitat.
adaptations example image

Age group:  Years 7, 8, 9 and 10 (KS3 and 4, Ages 11–16); also available for Year 6 (KS2)

Duration: 50 minutes

Capacity: 35 students

Availabilty: 10:30, 11:30 & 12:30 Mon-Fri during term time 


Intended learning outcomes:

Students will be able to:

  • Define an animal adaptation as a feature that allows the animal to survive in a given habitat
  • Gain an understanding that some adaptations can be physical and some behavioural and be able to name 2 examples of each
  • Recognise that all species show variation, and that adaptations come about over time by the process of evolution by natural selection
  • Identify adaptations on real animal specimens and discuss how these help the animal to survive in its habitat

The objects from the natural world that are used in this session are loaned to us by HM Revenue and Customs.

Please be aware that though we aim to use a live animal in this session, we do not guarantee that they will be present – animals can fall ill or be unwilling to be handled and their welfare is ZSL’s first priority.


National Curriculum links:

KS3 Science - programme of study


Working scientifically

Analysis and evaluation

  • interpret observations and data, including identifying patterns and using observations, measurements and data to draw conclusions



Genetics and evolution

Inheritance, chromosomes, DNA and genes

  • the variation between species and between individuals of the same species meaning some organisms compete more successfully, which can drive natural selection

Interactions and interdependencies

Relationships in an ecosystem

  • the interdependence of organisms in an ecosystem, including food webs and insect pollinated crops


Additional Resources

  • Support your students' learning before, during or after their visit with our online resources.


GCSE Exam Board Syallbi links:





AQA Biology and Science A (2014)


B1.4 Interdependence and Adaptation

  • suggest how organisms are adapted to the conditions in which they live
  • observe the adaptations, e.g. body shape, of a range of organisms from different habitats

  • develop an understanding of the ways in which adaptations enable organisms to survive


B1.4.1. Adaptations

d) Organisms have features that enable them to survive in the conditions in which they normally live.

f) Animals and plants may be adapted for survival in the conditions where they normally live, e.g. deserts, the Arctic.

g) Animals and plants may be adapted to cope with specific features of their environment


B1.4.2. Environmental Change

 a) Changes in the environment affect the distribution of living organisms

OCR GCSE Biology A (2014)


3.4.3 Module B3:  Life on Earth

B3.2.3. understand that there is variation between individuals of the same species and that some of this variation is genetic so can be passed on to offspring



OCR GCSE Biology B (2014)


Module B2:  Understanding Our Environment

Item B2e: Adaptations

  • Explain how adaptations to cold, hot and dry environments help organisms to survive

  • Explain how animals and plants that are adapted to an environment are better able to compete for limited resources.

Item B2f: Natural Selection

Understand Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection

Edexcel GCSE in Biology 2BIO1


Unit B1: Influences on life

Topic 1:  Classification, variation and inheritance

1.11 Explain how organisms are adapted to their environment and how some organisms have characteristics that enable them to survive in extreme environments, including deep-sea hydrothermal vents and polar regions

1.12a Variation – most populations of organisms contain individuals which vary slightly from one to another

1.16b Environmental variation – different characteristics caused by an organism’s environment