Q:

What is a functional adaptation?

A:

Quick Answer

A functional adaptation is a structure or behavior that has arisen sometime in the evolutionary history of a species to aid in that species', or its predecessors', survival. A waterproof eggshell, for example, is a functional adaptation that arose among reptiles in response to the need to lay eggs in dry, dessicating environments where permeable eggshells would have dried out.

Continue Reading
What is a functional adaptation?
Credit: Ferran Pestaña CC-BY-SA 2.0

Full Answer

Functional adaptations are at the heart of evolution. Structures that increase the likelihood of survival for an organism are strongly favored by natural selection, so they appear in ever-greater numbers from one generation to the next until the trait becomes fixed and every member of the population has them. Sometimes functional adaptations make the transition from one function to another. An example of this is feathers. Feathers arose during the Mesozoic as a form of insulation for some dinosaur species. They were functional as insulation in these species. In time, the shape of some feathers changed to allow flight among the ancestors of modern birds. Feathers thus took on a new function during the course of bird evolution.

Once-functional adaptations can lose their function. These vestigial adaptations are not always useless. The human coccyx, or tailbone, is an example of a vestigial adaptation. It still serves as an attachment point for muscles but is regarded as having greatly diminished functions from ancestral forms.

Learn more about Biology

Related Questions

  • Q:

    What are the four principles of natural selection?

    A:

    The four principles of natural selection are variability among members of a species, heritability of the variable features, differences in population members' ability to reproduce and survival of the fittest in terms of variability, heritability and reproduction. Natural selection is one of evolution's four mechanisms.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    What is the ecological significance of interdependence?

    A:

    Interdependence is a significant relationship among species in an ecosystem that helps to prevent overpopulation of particular species to ensure the survival of each species as a whole. The interdependent relationship among species in an ecosystem implies that each species' existence depends upon other species' existence. For example, a carnivore depends on the existence of herbivore prey in order to survive, herbivores depend on plant life for survival and plant life depends on microorganisms within the soil to thrive.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    What are the four steps of natural selection?

    A:

    The four steps or conditions necessary for natural selection to occur are that more organisms are born than can survive, characteristics vary within a species, variations are inherited, and differences in reproduction and survival are due to variations. All four of these conditions must occur for natural selection to happen.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    What is the function of bacterial endospores?

    A:

    The function of bacterial endospores, according to Cornell University, is to allow the survival of bacteria's cell lines through harsh conditions that would kill a normal member of the species. These conditions include starvation, ultraviolet light, dessication and chemical damage. The endospore is an unusually small and largely dehydrated bacterium with a germ cell wall, surrounded by further walls of protein and peptidoglycan that protect it.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:

Explore