From  VDOE's Curriculum Framework - 2003 revised version
Standard 4.5 -Ecosystems & Adaptations
The student will investigate and understand how plants and animals in an ecosystem interact with one another and the nonliving environment. Key concepts include
a) behavioral and structural adaptations;
b) organization of communities;
c) flow of energy through food webs;
d) habitats and niches;
e) life cycles; and
f) influence of human activity on ecosystems.
The concepts developed in this standard include the following:
∑ Organisms have structural adaptations or physical attributes that help them meet a life need.
∑ Organisms also have behavioral adaptations, or certain types of activities they perform, which help them meet a life need.
∑ The organization of communities is based on the utilization of the energy from the sun within a given ecosystem. The greatest amount of energy in a community is in the producers.
∑ Within a community, organisms are dependent on the survival of other organisms. Energy is passed from one organism to another.
∑ The organization of a community is defined by the interrelated niches within it.
∑ The sunís energy cycles through ecosystems from producers through consumers and back into the nutrient pool through decomposers.
∑ An organismís habitat provides food, water, shelter, and space. The size of the habitat depends on the organismís needs.
∑ A niche is the function that an organism performs in the food web of that community. A niche also includes everything else the organism does and needs in its environment. No two types of organisms occupy the exact same niche in a community.
∑ During its life cycle, an organismís role in the community, its niche, may change. For example, what an animal eats, what eats it, and other relationships will change.
∑ Humans can have a major impact on ecosystems.
Habitat is the place or kind of place in which an animal or plant naturally lives.
∑ Organisms have structural adaptations or physical attributes that help them meet a life need.
∑ Organisms also have behavioral adaptations, or certain types of activities they perform, which help them meet a life need.
(From NatureWorks -
Structural and Behavioral Adaptations

All organisms have adaptations that help them survive and thrive. Some adaptations are structural. Structural adaptations are physical features of an organism like the bill on a bird or the fur on a bear. Other adaptations are behavioral. Behavioral adaptations are the things organisms do to survive. For example, bird calls and migration are behavioral adaptations.
     Adaptations are the result of
evolution. Evolution is a change in a species over long periods of time. Adaptations usually occur because a gene mutates or changes by accident! Some mutations can help an animal or plant survive better than others in the species without the mutation.
     BirdFor example, imagine a bird species. One day a bird is born with a beak that is longer than the beak of other birds in the species. The longer beak helps the bird catch more food. Because the bird can catch more food, it is healthier than the other birds, lives longer and breeds more. The bird passes the gene for a longer beak on to its offspring. They also live longer and have more offspring and the gene continues to be inherited generation after generation. Eventually the longer beak can be found in all of the species. This doesn't happen overnight. It takes thousands of years for a mutation to be found in an entire species.
     Over time, animals that are better adapted to their environment survive and breed. Animals that are not well adapted to an environment may not survive.
     The characteristics that help a species survive in an environment are passed on to future generations. Those characteristics that don't help the species survive slowly disappear.
Structural Adaptations
Let's look at how adaptations work! A camel lives in the hot, dry desert. Winds blow sand all around, so a camel has long eyelashes. It has nostrils that can open and close. The long eyelashes keep sand out of its eyes. Its nostrils can close so it doesn't get sand up its nose. These are two adaptations that a camel has that help it live in the dry, sandy desert.
A polar bear lives in the cold, snowy Arctic lands. It is white. This helps it blend in with the snow and ice that are found there. It is has a layer of fat under its skin. This helps it stay warm. It has very wide, large paws. Wide, large paws help it walk in the snow. These are three adaptations a polar bear has to its Arctic environment.

Behavioral Adaptations
 Behavioral adaptation is the way an organism acts or behaves to stay alive. For example if the American Wigeon cannot find enough food, it will steal food right out of the bill of an American Coot, or a Snowy Egret will stand still in the water with its wings stretched out, because fish are attracted to the shade. These are ways of behaving.



In order to meet this standard, it is expected that students will be able to:
∑ distinguish between structural and behavioral adaptations.
∑ investigate and infer the function of basic adaptations and provide evidence for the conclusion.
∑ understand that adaptations allow an organism to succeed in a given environment.
∑ explain how different organisms use their unique adaptations to meet their needs.
∑ describe why certain communities exist in given habitats.
∑ illustrate the food webs in a local area and compare and contrast the niches of several different organisms within the community.
∑ compare and contrast the differing ways an organism interacts with its surroundings at various stages of its life cycle. Specific examples include a frog and a butterfly.
∑ differentiate among positive and negative influences of human activity on ecosystems.