1. Introduce vocabulary and have students brainstorm.
Introduce the term adaptation to students. An adaptation is a behavior or body part modification (change) that helps an animal survive where it lives. Explain that adaptations can occur through modified behavior or modified body parts. Provide students with two examples of modified behavior: working in groups and swimming in schools to avoid predators. Then provide students with three examples of modified body parts: chemical defense, camouflage, and different limb shapes. Ask students to brainstorm other examples of adaptations. (Modified body parts such as eyes—ability to see at night, ability to see far away, ability to see under water, keen sense of smell, large teeth, many teeth, claws, body size; modified behaviors such as playing dead, food selection, migration)
2. Have a whole-class discussion.
Tell students that, like modern day animals, prehistoric animals also adapted body parts and behaviors in order to survive. Ask students to predict what adaptations—body parts or behaviors—helped sea creatures that lived 82 million years ago to survive.
3. If possible, watch the film.
Have students view Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure to confirm or revise their predictions. Ask students to describe some of the challenges that the prehistoric marine reptiles faced in the film. (protecting their young; defending themselves; finding food)
4. Distribute the worksheet.
Distribute the worksheet Animal Adaptations to each student. As a class, review the model of the giraffe. Next, have students participate in a guided classroom discussion or do library or online research to complete the rest of the worksheet.
5. Have students reflect on what they learned.
Ask students to discuss what they learned about adaptations in modern and prehistoric animals.
Extending the Learning
Go to the Sea Monsters website to find out more about sea monsters and to find a list of theaters where you can see the film Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure.
Subjects & Disciplines
- explain how adaptations help animals survive
- identify different types of adaptations
This activity targets the following skills:
Critical Thinking Skills
What You’ll Need
Materials You Provide
The resources are also available at the top of the page.
- Internet Access: Required
- Tech Setup: 1 computer per classroom, Projector, Speakers
- Plug-Ins: Flash
- Large-group instruction
Animals undergo adaptations—changes to body parts and behaviors—that help them survive. Adaptations can occur through modified behavior or modified body parts.
Recommended Prior Activities
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry adaptation Noun
a modification of an organism or its parts that makes it more fit for existence. An adaptation is passed from generation to generation.
Encyclopedic Entry: adaptation behavior Noun
anything an organism does involving action or response to stimulation.
This material is based in part upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DRL-1114251. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.