Extreme Survivors: Species That Live in Crazy Conditions | Summary and Q&A

March 9, 2019
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Extreme Survivors: Species That Live in Crazy Conditions


Some animals have evolved extreme adaptations to survive in high elevations and deep ocean depths.

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Questions & Answers

Q: How do animals like yaks and birds adapt to survive in high elevations?

Yaks have evolved larger chests, lungs, and hearts, as well as thick coats to deal with the cold. They also have genetic changes that help control their body's stress response to low oxygen. Birds like the bar-headed goose have genetic mutations that allow their blood to hold onto more oxygen, and they can move more air in and out of their lungs.

Q: What adaptations do mammals have to enable them to dive to great depths?

Some mammals have more red blood cells, can slow down their heart rate, and can shut down non-essential organs like kidneys. They also have myoglobin, a protein that stores oxygen in muscle cells. These adaptations help mammals like elephant seals and beaked whales to dive to depths exceeding 2400 meters.

Q: How do creatures in the deep ocean survive the extreme water pressure?

Creatures like snailfish have adaptations that enable them to withstand high water pressure. They produce a compound called trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) that stabilizes their proteins. TMAO levels increase with depth, helping them maintain stability. However, beyond a certain depth, the required TMAO levels could cause cells to become saltier than the surrounding seawater and potentially lead to cell rupture.

Q: How deep have humans been able to explore and find complex life forms?

Humans have explored the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean, reaching depths of over 10,000 meters. Even at these extreme depths, scientists have discovered relatively complex life forms such as crustaceans, sea cucumbers, and foraminifera.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • High elevation environments pose challenges to living organisms, with low oxygen levels and extreme cold. However, animals like yaks and birds have evolved adaptations such as larger lungs and genetic mutations that enable them to survive in these conditions.

  • Deep ocean depths also present challenges, such as low oxygen levels and high water pressure. Yet, researchers have discovered species like snailfish that can withstand these conditions by obtaining oxygen directly from the water and producing compounds to stabilize their proteins.

  • The ability of animals to survive in extreme environments highlights the incredible adaptability of life on Earth.

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