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What are the mountain regions?
A very high hill is called a mountain. The mountain habitats are usually very cold and windy. In many mountain regions, snowfall occurs in winter. Some of the mountains, however, always remain covered with snow. There is a large variety of plants and animals living in the mountain habitats. We will now describe some common adaptations in plants and animals living in mountain habitats.
Adaptation in Plants to Mountain Habitats
There is lot of rain in mountain regions. In the mountain habitat, it is very cold during winter and snowfall may also occur. The rain and snow may damage the mountain trees and plants. At very low temperatures in winter, the soil water freezes and hence becomes unavailable to the roots of trees and plants. On the high mountains, it is also more windy. Water evaporates more quickly in wind) places due to which the trees on mountains can lose too much water easily through their leaves. This means that to survive in mountain habitat, the trees should have adaptations to protect themselves from the rain-water, snowfall and loss of too much water.
The trees can survive in extremely cold and windy mountain habitats due to the following adaptations
1. The trees in mountain habitats are usually cone-shaped having sloping branches (see Figure). This shape of the mountain trees makes the rain-water and snow to slide off easily without damaging the branches and leaves.
2. Many mountain trees have small, needle-like leaves due to which these leaves lose very little water in windy conditions (see Figure). This helps the mountain trees to survive in winter when all the soil water is frozen in the form of ice and not available to their roots.
The needle-like leaves have a thick waxy layer (or cuticle) to reduce the loss of water through transpiration and to protect them from damage by rain and snow.
3. The broad-leaved trees found on mountains shed their leaves before the onset of winter. This prevents such trees from losing water from their leaves and helps in their survival during winter when all the water in soil is frozen and hence not available to the roots.
Adaptation in Animals to Mountain Habitats
The animals living in mountain habitats are also adapted to the extremely cold environment present there. One of the most common adaptation found in all animals living in cold places like mountains is that they have thick skin or fur to protect them from cold environment. We will now describe the adaptations in some animals such as yak, mountain goat and snow leopard which live in mountain regions.
(i) Adaptation in Yak
Yak is a kind of large ox covered with long silky hair. Yak lives on mountains where it is very cold. Yaks are adapted to live in the cold climate of the mountains as follows : Yaks have long hair on their body to protect them from cold by keeping them warm (see Figure).
(ii) Adaptation in Mountain Goat
Mountain goat has to live in the cold climate of mountains as well as to run up the rocky slopes of the mountains for grazing. A mountain goat is adapted to cold and rocky environment of a mountain habitat as follows :
- The mountain goat has long hair to protect it from cold and keep it warm (see Figure).
- The mountain goat has strong hooves for running up the rocky slopes of mountains for grazing (The hard and rough feet of an animal are called hooves).
(iii) Adaptation in Snow Leopard
Snow leopard lives in mountains where snow is present (see Figure). The snow leopard is adapted to live in extremely cold places having snow as follows :
- The snow leopard has thick fur on its body. This fur protects the snow leopard from cold and keeps it warm. The snow leopard has also fur on its feet and toes. This protects its feet from cold when it walks on the snow.
- The snow leopard has a thick layer of fat beneath its skin for “insulation” to protect it from cold.
- The snow leopard has a rounded body and small ears to keep the body surface area to a minimum. This reduces the heat loss from the body of snow leopard.
- The snow leopard has big feet to spread the weight on snow and prevent it sinking into soft snow.