Even though in moderate level – one does get to see species diversity in the grassland biome, and grassland animal adaptations, some of which are quite amazing in themselves, have a crucial role to play when it comes to this diversity. Continue reading for some fascinating facts about adaptations in animal species inhabiting the grasslands of the world.Even though it is not very lengthy as such, the list of grassland animals does boast of some diversity – with animals found in this biome ranging from tiny insects and reptiles to some of the large mammals on the planet. Grasslands are home to the largest animal on land – the African elephant, the largest ruminating animal on the planet – giraffe, one of the most ferocious animals on the planet – the hippopotamus…, the elegant lions…, the swift black mamba… and so on. Each of these animals have adapted themselves to the conditions prevailing in this biome, and that explains why a significant portion of kingdom Animalia can be traced to these grasslands – which cover 25 percent of the planet’s surface area. Before we move on to the details of what adaptations do grassland animals have, let’s go through some basic grassland biome facts to get acquainted with it.
Grassland Biome Facts
The grassland biome – which is typically characterized by the presence of different types of grass and herbaceous plants, covers approximately 25 per cent of the total surface area of the planet. Grasslands are found on every single continent of the world – with the exception of Antarctica, and on each of these continents they are known by different names. In the continent of North America, the grasslands are referred to as Prairies, in South America as Pampas, in Africa as Savannah, and in Eurasia and Australia as the Steppes. On the basis of abiotic conditions prevailing here, the grassland biome is divided into two types – the tropical grasslands and temperate grasslands.
While the tropical grasslands – Savannah being one of the apt examples of the same, are warm throughout the year, they do have a dry and rainy season. On the other hand, the temperate grasslands – Prairies being an apt example of the same, is typically characterized by cold conditions with a growing season and dormant season. While the animals found in tropical grasslands include species such as elephants, rhinos, giraffes, zebras, etc., animals found in temperate grasslands include species such as coyotes, gazelles, jack rabbits, etc. In order to survive in such harsh conditions, these animals have to adapt themselves to the abiotic conditions prevailing in this region, and that’s where the adaptation skills of grassland animals comes into play.
Grassland Animal Adaptations
As we mentioned earlier, a moderate level of species diversity can be seen in the grassland biome, and the adaptation skills of the animals found here have a crucial role in making sure that this biodiversity prevails. Over the period, these animals have adapted themselves to the seemingly harsh conditions that typically characterize this region. The fact that the animals from temperate grasslands have adapted themselves to the dry, windy conditions prevailing in this biome, is an apt example of animal adaptations in the grassland biome. There exist several other factors – including their size, diet, seasons, etc., all of which have a crucial role to play when it comes to their adaptation skills.
The size of these animals is one the most important factor in the grassland biome. While the small animals like insects, jack rabbits, snakes, Prairie dogs, etc., can easily hide in the tall grass that grows in this biome for protection against predators as well as for hunting, large animals are gifted with adaptations like camouflage and speed to facilitate the same. Furthermore, their size in itself is one of the best adaptations for large animals – like the African elephant and the rhinoceros, when it comes to self defense. Yet another defensive adaptation which is often seen in this biome is that of forming groups (herds). In fact, this is one of the apt defense strategies – which makes sure that even the young ones and injured individuals are safe from predators.
Other than their size, other physical characteristics and behavior also comes into play when it comes to protection. Some grassland animals are armed with strong front legs – with sharp claws which help them burrow in the ground wherein they are safe from large predators with whom they share their natural habitat. Camouflage is yet another adaptation that many grassland animals resort to when it comes to defense against predators. Similarly, quite a few animals of the Prairie grasslands are nocturnal in nature – which means they are active during the night. As in case of camouflage, even their nocturnal nature helps them to stay off the predator’s radar.
One of the best example of grassland animal adaptations in accordance with their dietary habit can be seen in bison species who sport flat-topped teeth which makes it easier for them to feed on grass. Studies have also revealed that the digestive system of a bison is well adapted for the digestion of grass. One also gets to see a great deal of diversity when it comes to the size of herbivorous animals found in grasslands. Their height plays a crucial role in ensuring that there is no competition for food in this biome – while small antelope species feed on grass and leaves of short plants, the giraffe feeds on leaves at a considerable height on the trees.
The Savannah grasslands of Africa are typically characterized by a great deal of variability when it comes to food supply – with food available in plenty during a part of the year, and severe food scarcity prevailing at other times. It’s the amazing ability of the animals here to migrate thousands of miles from one part of the biome to another, which helps them survive this food crisis. On the other hand, the animals in Prairie grasslands of North America and Steppes of Eurasia have the ability to survive in extremely cold winters – with temperature falling below the freezing point at times, which is again a basic geographical feature of the temperate grasslands.
Grassland Plant Adaptations
Alongside these grassland animal adaptations, one has to also take a note of the amazing adaptations that the grassland biome plants boast of. These plants have an extensive root system which penetrates deep into the ground, and absorbs water even during a drought. The extensive root system also ensures that the roots of these plants and grasses are not harmed in case of a wild fire triggered by lightning – which is a common occurrence in the grasslands. Similarly, they have long narrow leaves which minimize heat loss during the day. The colorful flowers that grow on the shrubs and grass types in this biome, attract insects which help them to pollinate. Other than insects, even wind acts as a major pollinating agent for the plants in grasslands.
All these grassland plant and animal adaptations mentioned above hint at the fact that grassland biome – which is one of the most underrated biomes of the world, is actually one of the most fascinating biomes of the world. It may not be as rich in terms of biodiversity as the rainforest biome or the marine biome is, but the level of diversity that one gets to see in grassland biome plants and animals does make it an apt contender when it comes to studies about adaptations and biodiversity.Use the form below to email this article to your friends.