Adapt to Your Habitat Complements Teacher Guide Adaptations: Secrets to Survival

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1 Adapt to Your Habitat Complements Teacher Guide Adaptations: Secrets to Survival Theme: and animals have many different adaptations that allow them to survive. Objectives: Understanding what adaptations are and their role in an organism s survival Becoming aware of several of San Elijo Lagoon habitats, and the adaptations that enable plants and animals to survive in those habitats. Familiarizing with some of the plants and animals that live at the lagoon. Describe some plant and animal adaptations of organisms found in the reserve.. Materials/Props General adapt poster boards, perfect beak set up, binoculars, skull box, wingspan, adapt cards, plant and bird beak poster boards. Introduction (Begin with general introduction to the lagoon) Introduce topic of visit: We are going to focus on the adaptations that help plants and animals survive in their environment. Make sure students know what environment means: all the living and non-living (sun, soil, road) things that surround a living thing in its habitat. Ask students to define adaptation: a special body part or behavior that allows the animal to survive in its environment. What are some unique adaptations of humans? We walk upright, we have good use of our hands, we have teeth that allow us to chew, and we are able to communicate with one another. These special adaptations have allowed us to live in all different parts of the world with different climates and temperatures. Today we are going to look at some of the adaptations of plants and animals, with a focus on plants and animals that live in the San Elijo Lagoon. Ask the students to mention some of the animals they expect to see and what their adaptations might be. If they seem well prepared, try to get them to distinguish between a structural (body part) and behavioral adaptation. General Adapt Board Bring out general adapt board and hand out the removable cards to volunteers. Discuss the different adaptations of the animals depicted on the board. When they come up with

2 an adaptation that is depicted on one of the cards (for example, elephant trunk), ask the student holding the card to attach it to the board. Continue with remaining cards, allowing for some discussion among the students. Prepare kids for a walk, divide into smaller groups go over rules. Along the walk, try to weave in adaptations as frequently as possible. Salt Marsh Adaptation Examples Pickleweed* can tolerate high salt concentrations in water (high salt concentrations are usually toxic to plants). Plant collects salt in new growth tips and is discarded when concentrations become too high. Called a salt accumulator. Saltgrass and Salt - cedar will excrete salt. You can see/feel the salt on the leaves. Diving Ducks vs. Dabbling Ducks* - Diving ducks feet are set far back on body, so they are good under water swimmers. Dabbling ducks feet are more centrally located, are not good underwater swimmers, and often feed with head down and bottom up. Do you think dabblers and divers eat the same food? Let s observe and see if we can find one of each. Shorebirds - have different sized bills for probing at varying depths to eat different organisms. Can you tell who has the longest/shortest bill? Ospreys - grab fish with their talons (feet) and tear apart their food before swallowing it. Snowy egrets* - have a long bill to catch food and yellow feet to lure fish. Fish - have gills that allow them to breath under water; Mullet* - jump out of the water but no one knows why. Fiddler crabs* - wave claws (males), burrow into mud to avoid predators, have hard shells. California Horn Snail* feast on dead material, have a special door (operculum) that closes shell to keep its body from drying out Freshwater Riparian Adaptation examples Willows* are adapted to moist, wet soils and roots can be covered in water during floods. Mammals (rabbits, raccoons, coyote) use the brush to hide in (behavioral). Raccoons* like wooded areas near water, but are generalists and have adapted to all kinds of environments, including your backyard. What do you think they are looking for when they hang around your house? (trash). Woodpeckers have two toes forward and two toes back to allow them to climb. Can you find a tree that a woodpecker might like? Why? (Snag along boardwalk) 2

3 Sawflies (related to wasps and bees) place their eggs on the leaves of a willow tree and secret a chemical that causes the leaf to grow abnormally, creating the red galls that provide food and shelter to the emerging larvae. Upland Adaptation examples California Sagebrush*- has soft, grayish-green needle-shaped leaves and a shallow root system (light leaves help reflect heat from sun, small leaves helps plant conserve water, and shallow roots allows plant to quickly absorb water during a rainstorm). Is drought deciduous, appears dead in dry summer months, but comes back to life with winter rains. Lemonade Berry *- thick waxy leaves Prickly Pear* the waxy pads (flattened stems) store water, and the spines (modified leaves) help protect it from predators as well as water loss. Snakes and lizards scales to protect body that hold water and protect them from the sun. Snakes* - expandable jaw that allows it to prey on large animals. Fence Lizard* - well camouflaged; blue belly of the males helps attract a mate, tail drops off when threatened, grows back. Cottontail rabbit* - fur to keep warm, big back legs and feet for jumping, freezes in place when frightened. Coyote* adapted to all kinds of habitats, found in every single state. Honeybees* - stingers with venom to protect themselves and wings to fly. Spiders - unique body parts allow them to make silk used to build webs that trap insects for food. Insects in general are extremely adaptable protective shell, small, can fly. Spittle bugs create a frothy excretion for protection from heat, Darkling beetle emits foul-smelling black fluid for protection. *=examples used in Adapt Teacher Guide. Consider prompting the students as they might have talked about that animal/plant in the classroom. 3

4 Stations 1) Perfect Beak Set up with table, or simplify and set up on cement benches outside nature center. If set up outside Nature Center, make sure to cover up with tablecloths during intro so kids don t get distracted. 2) Binoculars Provide two sets at Pickleweed Point. Make sure to show the kids how to use them. Don t spend too much time here; this is mostly to provide the kids with the experience of using binoculars. 3) Skull Box To be placed along trail. Items in here may vary, but expect to find: feather, fur, skulls (snake, pelican, duck, raccoon), CA horned snail, dried cucumber pod whatever folks would like to contribute. You might consider sitting the kids in a circle, then asking them to guess what the object is, and what the unique adaptation might be. 4) Wingspan Determine the wingspan of each student, and discuss some of the adaptations of the bird the students match up with. Include parents. Optional Activities 1) Adapt cards from Teacher Guide 2) Bird Adapt Board 3) Plant Adapt Board Questions that can be discussed along the trail or during wrap up What helps an organism survive in its habitat? (Adaptations) Why would an osprey (or any water dependent bird that you saw on your hike) need to live near water? Eats fish, algae, crustaceans. Compare an adaptation of an animal that lives in the wetlands marsh to one that lives on land (scales vs. fur, webbed feet vs. toes). How would you adapt if part of your house was covered with water each day (burrow into the mud), if you ran out of water for months at a time (sagebrush), if twice a day your drinking water became extremely salty (pickleweed), if all the food in your refrigerator ran out (migrate), if birds with sharp claws wanted to eat you (hide underground)? If you were an animal that lived in the wild, what kinds of adaptations would you want to have? Why? (Note: For Content Standards for CA Public Schools, Vocabulary list, and plant and animal adaptation cards see coinciding Teacher Guide: Adaptations: Secrets to Survival) Developed for SELC Docent Training 2009, revised 2011,

5 TEXT TO GO WITH BIRD AND PLANT BOARDS BIRDS Mallard (feet and bill) - My flat large bill allows me to strain aquatic plants and invertebrates from the water. Webbed feet make me a good swimmer. Osprey (feet and bill) - I feed almost entirely on fish and have sharp claws and sandpaper-like pads that are good for grasping slippery, wet prey. My beak is sharp and hooked and is excellent for tearing the flesh of fish. Black Phoebe (feet and bill) I eat mostly insects. I have stiff narrow feathers around my bill that look like whiskers to help me sense and/or gather insects into my mouth while I am in flight. My slender feet are perfectly adapted for grasping twigs or perching on objects. Great Egret (bill) My long thin bill allows me to spear fish. My long legs allow me to wade into the water to look for fish. Whimbrel (bill) - I use my curved bill to probe deep in the mud in search of worms and other invertebrates (crabs, mollusks). PLANTS Pickleweed I can tolerate high concentrations of salt (salt is normally toxic to plants). My stems are jointed and salt collects in the tips of new growth turning them red before dropping off completely and returning the salt to the marsh. Salt accumulator. Adapted to salt. Lemonade Berry I grow in areas of low moisture and my thick oval leathery leaves help reduce evaporation. Adapted to dry waxy. Prickly Pear I grow in very dry areas. My waxy pads (flattened stems) store water, and my spines (modified leaves) help protect me from predators and reduce water loss (due to small surface area). Adapted to dry succulent and thorny. Sagebrush My soft, grayish-green needles are shaped to help me conserve moisture. Adapted to dry small leaves, light colored. Willow I like to grow in wet soils with a good source of fresh water. I have long narrow leaves and I grow tall in search of sunlight. Adapted to moist soils. Adaptation: a special body part or behavior that allows the animal to survive in its environment. 5

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