explore

Adaptations

How do a pollinator’s physical structures and behaviors help it survive?

All organisms (living things) have adaptations, or unique physical structures (how they look) and behaviors (how they act) that help them protect themselves, get food, communicate with other animals in their ecosystem, and reproduce. If the ecosystem changes, the organism has a choice—it can leave and find another ecosystem, adapt (change) to the changes to continue living, or die. This section will allow your group to focus on the specific adaptations your pollinator has.

As you EXPLORE, consider how you would answer these questions:

  • Why do some pollinators live in your community and others do not?
  • What adaptations does your pollinator species have and how do you think they help them survive and thrive?
  • How can understanding your species' physical and behavioral adaptations help you decide how you can help them?
eye

Butterflies & Skippers

The wings of different species of butterflies and skippers have dramatically different colors and patterns. Some are colorful, some are dull, and some are different patterns. These colors and patterns are adaptations that have helped that butterfly species survive! They help butterflies hide from predators, trick predators into thinking they are poisonous or that they are a much bigger animal, and help them maintain their body temperature.

What traits do you think your species has developed to help it survive and thrive?

Moths

Like butterflies and skippers, the wings of moths also tell an interesting story about what they need to survive and thrive. Not only have moth wings adapted to make them very good fliers, but their coloring is often important to helping them camouflage themselves so they can avoid being eaten by predators. Some species look like leaves or bark. Others have big spots that look like eyes of much larger creatures.

Some species can adapt quickly to changing conditions, such as the species in this picture who became darker as the lichens on the trees where they lived died from pollution.

What traits do you think your species has developed to help it survive and thrive?

moth
hummingbird-beak

Hummingbirds

Many of the hummingbird's special traits and adaptations have developed to help it consume and conserve energy. Its long narrow beak and tongue are specially designed to help it drink nectar from the long tubular flowers it likes most.  The feet of the hummingbird are tiny, really only strong enough to perch on branches, which helps make them lighter. Finally, when they sleep, their organs can all slow down to conserve energy.

What traits do you think your species has developed to help it survive and thrive?

Bats

As the only known flying mammal, bats have adapted all kinds of interesting traits to help them survive and thrive. As we discussed in the Structure and Function section, the unique wing structure of the bat helps make it a very nimble and quick flier. Bats that tend to be pollinators also have a long nose, sometimes with a strange leaf-like part on the end. They also have a very long tongue that helps them reach deep into the flowering cactus and drink up the nectar.

What traits do you think your species has developed to help it survive and thrive?

bat-tongue
bee_pollen_macro

Bees

Bees have a number of specialized adaptations that help them to be great pollinators. They have hairs all over their body that can sense when flowers are nearby, and pick up pollen as they visit each flower. On their hind legs, bees have special hairs that are arranged to form pollen ‘baskets,’ which they can use to store the pollen they've already picked up. These traits allow them to carry large amounts of pollen and visit many different flowers before returning to their nest.

What traits do you think your species has developed to help it survive and thrive?

Time to do some research

Starting with the information you found here, explore more about the pollinator species you have chosen to help.

  • Why do some pollinators live in your community and others do not?
  • What adaptations does your pollinator species have and how do you think they help them survive and thrive?
  • How does understanding your species' physical and behavioral adaptations allow you to better help them?
What is the life cycle of your pollinator?
coneflowers
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