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Animal Protection

How Animals Protect Themselves

Animals eat other animals or are eaten by other animals. Over the generations, animals have evolved different ways of protecting themselves. Flying, running, climbing, fangs and claws, poison glands and camouflage are some of the ways the prey has learnt to live another day. These same mechanisms help the predator ensure it does not go hungry. Studying how animals' protect themselves will not only be an interesting study, but also help children gain valuable insights into the ways of the animal world.

These animals can perhaps be grouped together on the common ways they protect themselves. It would be interesting to note that some animals have more than one way of protecting themselves. Consequently, we can think of more than one way of grouping animals based on one or many criteria for protection. Thus the resulting chart can be simple (if only one protection mechanism is considered) or can consist of overlaps if more than one mechanism is considered. Pictures or drawings of animals, highlighting specific parts can also be pasted or drawn on the charts.

When the entire class participates in this project, it is likely and also desirable that each child depicts a different view of looking at animal protection.

A final discussion to integrate all the charts is a valuable end product. Concentrate on all the possible relationships that can be inferred and help children find these relationships, find other examples, compare different strategies adopted and finally wonder at the complex beauty of the animal world. Finding more and more examples would therefore be very helpful.

Some hints and examples
Sometimes an animal may have several methods of protection. A cobra, for example, has both a poisonous bite and brown colouring, so it is hard to see in the long grass.

Often the method of protection is also the method used for catching food. The sharp claws of a cat can be used for defence or attack.

It is a common belief that sharp teeth, strong claws, or a poisonous bite or sting are the main ways in which animals protect themselves against attack. Yet only a very small number of animals have these forms of protection.

It is often forgotten that size is protection in itself. An elephant and a whale have few natural enemies when they are fully-grown.

Animals have colours which camouflage them, or in a few cases where the animal is poisonous, bright warning colours which say "keep off!”, for example the honey bee. It has a powerful sting. It also has warning colours which save it from being attacked because once it has used its sting the insect dies. Birds and other attackers quickly learn that insects carrying warning colours are best left alone.

Many molluscs, insects, and crustaceans (covered by shells or hardened skins) have armoured bodies for protection.

Spines, like in a hedgehog and hairs, like in some caterpillars are also a useful protecting device.

Here is a list of protective methods. Try and find more.

Escape: Running, jumping, flying, gliding, swimming, burrowing, climbing.
Poison: Stings, bites, poison gas, unpleasant taste.
Shelter: In burrows, in tree hollows, under logs, under stones.
General: Teeth, claws, beaks, camouflage, strong skin, hide or wool, electric shock, spines, smoke clouds, bluff, large size, large numbers, armour, strong legs for kicking, strong tail for lashing, sacrifice of part of the body such as a leg or tail.

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