Animal Features and their Functions
Head, tail, wings, feathers, fur, and claws. Discover how these and other parts of animals help them live in different habitats. Discover how to tell what kind of food an animal eats based on the shape of its teeth. Learn how the different parts of animals help us determine where and how they live.
Take a look at how different parts of animals like feathers and claws help them live in different habitats.
- Students will identify the body coverings of animals and understand the purposes they serve.
- Hair/Fur: The hair or fur on a mammal's body helps keep it warm. Many mammals have a fur coat with long hairs on the outside that keep water away, and soft fur underneath that keeps them warm. Because the summer is warm and the winter is cold, many mammals shed their fur in the summer and grow a thick coat in the winter.
- Feathers: Birds have feathers to keep them warm. Many birds have two layers of feathers: the down, which is soft and light, and the larger top layer of feathers, which helps keep water away. Aquatic birds, like ducks, have oil on their feathers, which repels water.
- Bare Skin: Amphibians have smooth, bare skin that keeps them from becoming too hot or cold.
- Scales: Fish and reptiles have scales that act like a suit of armor. They are small and lay one on top of one another. Scales can protect the animal and keep water inside the body.
- Shell: The turtle has a hard shell that helps keep it safe from other animals.
- Exoskeleton: Some insects have skeletons on the outside of their bodies. This exoskeleton protects everything inside the insect's body.
- Quills: The porcupine has long sharp quills to protect it against predators.
- Students will understand how animals use their body parts to move.
- Legs: Many animals use their legs to move around. Insects have six legs; animals like elephants have four legs; animals like monkeys use their two legs and two arms to climb and swing from trees.
- Special Adaptations: Sheep have hooves that help them run on rocks. Ducks have webbed feet that work like paddles to help them move through water. Other adaptations allow animals to move across snow, sand, rocks, and water.
- Wings: Many birds use wings to fly from place to place. Others use their wings to keep balance, cool themselves, and protect eggs.
- Fins: fish move through the water using their fins.
- Students will learn how animals use special body features to obtain and process food:
- Wings: Birds and insects use their wings to fly to hunt for food.
- Claws: Eagles use claws to grab small animals from the ground. Bears use claws to attack other animals and to catch fish.
- Eyes: Animals use their eyes to find food. Predatory animals have eyes on the front of their face, allowing them to see what they are hunting. Plant-eating animals often have eyes on the side of their head to watch for danger.
- Beaks: Birds have beaks to help them get food. Beaks come in different sizes and shapes to serve a particular purpose. Some are long and thin, which are good for getting nectar, and others are shaped like cones, which are good for cracking seeds.
- Teeth: Like beaks, teeth determine what type of food an animal eats. Animals with sharp teeth eat the meat of other animals; sharp teeth allow the animal to cut the meat. Animals with flat teeth eat plants; flat teeth allow animals to grind grasses or other plants into small pieces.
- Animal book: After watching the video, give each student the opportunity to draw a different animal. Assign some students to draw animals with sharp teeth, wings, arms, etc. Create a class animal book with the drawings that students can refer back to during classification lessons. Be an animal: This is a fun way for students to learn about adaptation. After watching the video, ask students to think about how they would look, act, and feel if they had different parts. As a class, act out what it might be like to have wings, hooves, tails, fins, etc.