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BIOL 2306 LIVING PLANET Concepts and Questions

BIOL 2306 LIVING PLANET Concepts and Questions Tenth Edition Written by: Bernice Speer Betsy Maxim Sarah
BIOL 2306 LIVING PLANET Concepts and Questions Tenth Edition Written by: Bernice Speer Betsy Maxim Sarah

Tenth Edition

Written by:

Bernice Speer Betsy Maxim Sarah Strong

Concepts and Questions Tenth Edition Written by: Bernice Speer Betsy Maxim Sarah Strong July 2010 ISBN

July 2010

Concepts and Questions Tenth Edition Written by: Bernice Speer Betsy Maxim Sarah Strong July 2010 ISBN


LIVING PLANET Concepts and Questions

Student’s Name:

Section Number:


Tenth Edition


Bernice Speer Betsy Maxim Sarah Strong

July 2010

Instructor Contact Information:


PLANET STUDY GUIDE, 10 t h edition TABLE OF CONTENTS Preface and Copyright Notice i How
PLANET STUDY GUIDE, 10 t h edition TABLE OF CONTENTS Preface and Copyright Notice i How

Preface and Copyright Notice


How to Use This Study Guide


Blank World Map








































Living Planet, 10 th ed



This manual has been written especially for the Biology 2306 LIVING PLANET course offered at Austin Community College. Although various editions of the Living Planet Study Guide have been available for many years, the course required substantial revision in 1996, when the book Living Planet written by David Attenborough was taken out of print. Since then, we have revised the manual several times. This manual, Living Planet: Concepts and Questions, is designed to supplement the video programs.

We are indebted to David Attenborough for his genius in developing this series of programs. We would also like to thank our colleagues for their input and revisions on the Living Planet Study Guide: Steve Muzos and Steve Bostic.

This edition of the Living Planet Study Guide is dedicated to our late colleague, Charles Dunn, biology professor and master naturalist. Thanks for all of the help over the years.

We have included several web sites in the manual. Keep in mind that web sites come and go. If a web link is not working, use Google.

Bernice Speer Professor of Biology Round Rock Campus Austin Community College

Betsy Maxim Professor of Biology Round Rock Campus Austin Community College

Sarah Strong Professor of Biology Riverside Campus Austin Community College


This manual is published by Austin Community College, with permission of the authors. The authors retain the copyright for their original work. All rights are reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the authors and ACC.

Living Planet, 10 th ed


How to Use This Study Guide


The course LIVING PLANET is based on a series of twelve video episodes produced by the BBC and narrated by David Attenborough. This study guide has been written to guide you through the videos

LIVING PLANET is an overview of world ecology. Over the course of this semester, you will be introduced to several ecosystems, such as deserts, grasslands and mountain peaks. David Attenborough, the narrator, discusses where these ecosystems are found and the features of each. He also examines the plants and animals that are found there and discusses any special adaptations that allow them to be successful.

Each section has introductory material about the concepts covered in the corresponding video episode. Read this material before watching the video. The introductory material is followed by a series of questions for you to complete as you watch the video. As you go through the video questions, you will find corrections and additional information interspersed among the questions. You need to pay attention to this information because it is part of the course materials.

There are twelve video episodes in LIVING PLANET. As a general rule, one ecosystem is discussed in each episode. For example, Episode 3 discusses the different types of temperate forests -- coniferous forests and broad-leaved forests. Attenborough discusses the location of the coniferous forests, the climate and the characteristics of conifers that allow them to survive under these conditions. He then discusses conditions and characteristics of broad-leaved forests.

As you watch the videos, pay close attention to the characteristics of each ecosystem. Look for the problems that face organisms and different ways plants and animals have solved the problems. Look for adaptations that have occurred in the organisms. Adaptations are explained in Part V of the introduction.

Remember, this is global ecology. You should know where these ecosystems are found and any differences between similar ecosystems. For example, where are the coniferous forests located? How are they different from broad-leaved forests? Where are the broad-leaved forests found? What are the differences between coniferous forests of Europe and coniferous forests of North America? Are there any differences between different types of broad-leaved forests?

Living Planet, 10 th ed


Don't just ask how they are different. Start asking why they are different. Are the differences due to temperature? rainfall? altitude? Does one desert get more rainfall than another desert? Does one grassland have better soil than another?


If you need or want additional information about topics covered in this

course, don't forget to use the ACC Library. Ecology books will have information on ecological principles. Geology books will discuss fossils, volcanoes, volcanic islands and continental drift. On reserve at many ACC Libraries, you will find David Attenborough's companion book, Living Planet. His book can be a very valuable resource for students. Ask for help from the instructor or a reference librarian. Many students have bought the book Living Planet from online sources, such as or If you have problems understanding his British accent, you might find the book to be very useful. And, of course, there is always the internet.

Many people have problems with world geography. If this is true for you, you are not the only one. Apparently, most Americans cannot pick out which continent is Africa, much less know where to find the Himalayas or the Hebrides. Don't despair. Use Google. There are many world atlases in the ACC Libraries. There is also an excellent map in the back of Attenborough's book, right before the index. You will have a much clearer mind picture of where deserts or mountains or grasslands are located.

Throughout this study guide, we refer you to web sites that will supplement the materials. Check with your instructor to see if you need to read these articles as part of the class. If you want additional information, these are a good place to start.

A former student sent this great web site that is cosponsored with the

National Geographic Society. It features an interactive map of the terrestrial ecoregions of the world, many of which you will visit in this course with David Attenborough. One feature of the site is images from the various areas as well as information on the region. We highly recommend it to you:

Living Planet, 10 th ed


Living Planet, 10 t h ed iv

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Page 1


I. Geography

This section contains some basic information you need to know about geography to understand the material presented in the Concepts and in the video Episodes. Many of the features are illustrated on Maps 1 and 2 below. You can use the blank world map on page iv to practice identifying some of the features described here.

A. Global Terms

1. Equator - an imaginary line around earth midway between poles

2. Poles (North Pole and South Pole) - the northern and southern-most points on the earth

3. Longitude - units of east-west measurement around the earth. These are the vertical lines. Longitude measures where a place is (east or west) of a vertical line going through Greenwich, England, which is designated as 0

4. Latitude - units of north-south measurement around the earth. These are the horizontal lines that go around the earth. The location is always given as latitude first, then longitude. This basically measures where a place is relative to the equator.

This is a simple but useful website that explains latitude and longitude:

5. Hemisphere - half of the earth (north/south or east/west)

6. Axis - an imaginary line running through the earth between the poles

7. Rotation - movement of the earth around its axis

8. Revolution - movement of the earth around the sun (orbit)

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Physical Geography


Continent - a large land mass.

There are 6 continents: Africa, Antarctica,

Australia, Eurasia, North America, South America.


Ocean - a large body of salt water. There are 5 oceans: Atlantic, Antarctic, Arctic, Indian, Pacific.


Sea - usually refers to a body of salt water, smaller than and often more shallow than an ocean (examples: Baltic, Caribbean, Mediterranean)


Atmosphere - the air above the surface of the earth


Altitude - height of an object above the average level of the oceans (mean sea level)


Other Important Map Features


Arctic Circle: An imaginary line that marks the lower boundary of the area we call the Arctic. This is the southern-most latitude in the northern hemisphere with


24-hour day at least once a year.


Antarctic Circle: An imaginary line that marks the upper boundary of the area

we call the Antarctic, the northern-most latitude in the southern hemisphere with


24-hour day at least once a year.


Tropic of Cancer: An imaginary line that marks the northern-most latitude at which the sun is directly overhead during the June solstice.


Tropic of Capricorn: An imaginary line that marks the southern-most latitude at which the sun is directly overhead during the December solstice.

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The Earth

Map 1

Living Planet, 10 t h ed Page 3 The Earth Map 1

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The Earth

Map 2

Living Planet, 10 t h ed Page 4 The Earth Map 2 This view of the

This view of the Earth shows a clear view of longitude. Start with the longitude line at 90(this would be 90W). As you move from right to left (east to west), the numbers get bigger. You are moving west of the 90longitude line.

You can also see latitude. Start at the equator, which is shown as 0. As you move north from the equator towards the Arctic, notice how the numbers increase and become 15N, 30N, etc. As you move south from the equator towards the Antarctic, the numbers become 15S, 30S, etc.

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II. Biogeography

A. What is biogeography?

Biogeography is a branch of science that attempts to explain the distribution of species on the earth. In the broadest sense, it not only explains why each currently living species is located where it is, but also reaches back in time to explain why extinct species lived where they did and why they don’t live there any more. Biogeographers also use principles they have learned from living and extinct species to make predictions about the future distribution of species or about when a species might become extinct. Biogeography looks at many different factors to find explanations for species distribution: physical conditions, evolutionary history, barriers, and species interactions. These factors can usually explain why one species lives in one place and not everywhere on the earth.

Think about what the earth would be like if species distribution were random, if none of the factors mentioned above had anything to do with where a species lives. We could simulate a situation like this by putting the names of all species on pieces of paper and putting them in a box. Then for each type of habitat, we would pull out a certain number of slips of paper that would determine what species would live there. We might get polar bears in the tropical rain forest, orchids on the tundra, oak trees on the bottom of the ocean, or whales on the prairie. An even more general approach would be to distribute all species everywhere. But these approaches show us what we already know--that living things cannot survive just anywhere. Whales can die when out of the water for even a few hours, so they would never survive on land. On the other hand, trees wouldn’t do well on the bottom of the ocean where there is no light for photosynthesis.

The basic theme of the Living Planet video series, and of this course, is examining the reasons behind the distribution of plants and animals on the earth. The approach taken in each episode is to look at a habitat like desert or grassland and to examine some of the adaptations that allow species to survive there. This part of the study guide will explain each group of factors in advance so that the examples seen in the videos will make more sense. Physical factors such as temperature, light and moisture (for terrestrial organisms), or salinity, light and water pressure (for aquatic organisms) are one of the main things that determine where on the earth a species can survive (section B). Over the millions of years of the earth’s history, the continents have been moving around, changing the climate of the land masses and joining or separating bodies of water. As the land masses moved, they took species with them, altering their previous distribution (section C1). Species distribution is also determined by where a species could spread, or disperse, from its point of origin. Dispersal of a species has been limited by barriers like rivers, mountain ranges, glaciers and oceans (section C2). Interactions between species may have one of two effects on species distribution. If one species competes with another, one or both of their ranges is likely to be smaller than the range determined by physical conditions and barriers alone. On the other

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hand, if one species depends on another, we are likely to find them always in the same place.

B. Physical Biogeography

1. Tolerance

Each species on the earth has a range of physical conditions within which they can survive that can be called their tolerance zone. This zone can be described for many physical factors (like temperature or pH) by a tolerance graph:



Number of





C C D B A B D low high


A. Optimal range - range of physical factor within which most individuals survive

B. Stress zones - zones at ends of optimal range in which very few individuals survive

C. Tolerance limits - upper and lower limits beyond which no individuals survive

D. Lethal zones - zones outside of tolerance limits where no individuals survive

The optimal zone is the range of a physical factor (like temperature) within which most individuals of a species can not only survive but also thrive. Most members of a species live on a part of the earth that has physical conditions that are within the species’ optimal range. Just above and below the optimal zones are regions in which the physical conditions are not optimal, but in which some individuals of the species would still be able to survive. These are called stress zones because they cause some form of physical stress in the organisms living under those conditions.

Let’s look at a specific example, a plant. This plant species has an optimal temperature range of 15 to 25 degrees Celsius (C). At temperatures above 25C, the heat causes the plant to lose more water by evaporation through its leaves than it can

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replace through its roots. Its leaves wilt, and photosynthesis (the process by which the plant uses solar energy to make food for itself) stops. If the plant is in these conditions for long enough, it will make less food than individuals of the same species that are living in their optimal temperature zone. It will not be able to grow as fast, and may not be able to make flowers or seeds at all. At the other end of the temperature range, individuals of this species living in regions where the temperature is cold (less than 15C) have other problems. The cold slows down chemical reactions in their cells, making photosynthesis, growth, and reproduction slow down also. In this case, the plants living in cold regions have the same end result as plants living in hot regions. Many individuals of this species will not be able to tolerate the stress caused by either heat or cold, and they will die. Even if they don’t die, they won’t make as many seeds as individuals living in the optimal temperature zone, and fewer seeds means fewer individuals in the next generation. So the number of living individuals in the stress zones is always smaller than the number living in optimal conditions.

Going back to the graph, the tolerance limits are the absolute limits above or below which NO members of the species could survive. Outside of the tolerance limits are the lethal zones, where no members of the species can live. For the plant, if the upper tolerance limit for temperature is 30C, any plant subjected to that temperature for more than a few minutes or hours would die.

Tolerance is the most basic factor that determines where on the earth a species can live. The other factors (evolutionary history, barriers, species interactions) can limit a species’ distribution even more, but they can never allow a species to live outside of its tolerance limits. Because of this, we can make a general statement that the greater the tolerance range, the larger the geographical area over which the species is distributed.

2. Limiting Factors

A limiting factor is any condition or factor that exceeds an organism's tolerance range. Depending on where it lives, each species is subject to several limiting factors. For terrestrial organisms (species that live on land), the limiting factors are usually climate (temperature and precipitation), light, soil structure and nutrients. Other factors such as oxygen level in the atmosphere and periodic fires are more specific limiting factors for some species. Aquatic organisms (those that live in the water) are limited by salinity, temperature, current, pH, dissolved oxygen, light, and water nutrient level. Altitude affects not only temperature (see below) but also the level and timing of precipitation.

The physical characteristics of an organism’s environment (temperature, pH, light, etc.) are called abiotic factors. But the environment also contains biotic (living) components. The biotic components include all living organisms found in a particular region. This includes cyanobacteria (or blue greens), bacteria, algae, plants, fungi and animals. The living organisms have important roles in an ecosystem. Bacteria and fungi are decomposers, responsible for breaking down urine, feces, dead wood, fallen

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leaves and carcasses into their smallest components. This process returns nutrients (such as carbon, oxygen, iron, nitrogen, potassium) to the environment so the nutrients can be reused. Producers include plants, cyanobacteria, algae and other organisms that carry out photosynthesis, using water, carbon dioxide and the energy of sunlight to produce food. Herbivores are animals that get their food by directly eating the photosynthesizers. Other animals are predators, eating the herbivores.

In many cases, the types of plant life will determine the types of animals found in an area. If an animal such as a fox squirrel needs acorns and nuts to survive winter, you will not find fox squirrels living in the desert where the plant community is composed of cacti.

The video episodes will tell you about how organisms live under different physical (abiotic) conditions. But for the most part they won’t tell you why those particular conditions exist in specific regions of the earth. That’s the purpose of the next section.

3. Physical Conditions that Affect the Distribution of Species

The distribution of terrestrial (land-living) species is affected mainly by climate and soil characteristics:

a. Climate

Climate has two main components: temperature and precipitation. Both of these vary in different parts of the earth due to several factors, although not necessarily the same factors for both. Ocean currents and wind patterns modulate basic temperature and precipitation patterns, mostly by redistributing air and water.


Temperature limits the distribution of species because if it is too low it lowers an organism's metabolism too much for it to maintain cellular activity. In extreme cases, the formation of ice crystals inside cells when they freeze damages the cell so that even if it thaws out, it cannot survive. On the other hand, temperatures that are too high cause damage to proteins in the organism's body, a condition that can also be fatal.

Because temperature varies daily and seasonally in many parts of the earth, the species that live there have to be able to tolerate a range of temperatures.

The temperature in any given place on the earth depends mainly, but not exclusively, on its latitude and its altitude:

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o Effect of Latitude on Temperature

As you move either north or south away from the equator, two things happen to make the temperature decrease:

1) solar radiation is spread over a larger area due to angle of incidence of solar radiation 2) solar radiation has to pass through more of the atmosphere before it hits the earth's surface

o Effect of Altitude on Temperature

As you move up from mean sea level, the temperature generally decreases. This is because as you go higher, the atmospheric pressure decreases, which means the air is less dense (there are fewer molecules per liter), and that means that the molecules of the air cannot hold as much heat.

o Effect of Ocean Currents on Temperature

Ocean currents are defined as the movement of surface water caused by the rotation of the earth and the action of wind on the water. The currents affect air temperature in coastal more strongly than inland areas. The Gulf Stream is a current in the North Atlantic Ocean. It sweeps downward past Africa, then turns when it reaches the equator and moves westward towards South and Central America. Those land masses in turn deflect the current northwards along the eastern coast of the United States. From there it continues eastward across the Atlantic towards Europe, which deflects it southwards past the coast of Africa. It makes a big clockwise circle in the North Atlantic Ocean. As it flows along the equator, the water warms up. Later, when this warm water moves along the eastern coast of the U.S. and past Europe, it gives up some of the heat. The climates of the coastal areas that are passed by the Gulf Stream are much warmer and more mild than they would be expected to be based only on their latitude and altitude.

Another example is the Humboldt Current. It carries cold polar water from the Antarctic up past the western coast of South America. The effect there is to make the climate cooler than would be expected based on latitude and altitude.


Precipitation is the amount of rain, snow, sleet or any water that falls from the sky. In many parts of the earth, there is seasonal variation in the amount of precipitation (such as wet in the winter but dry in summer) or the form of precipitation (snow in the winter and rain in the summer). Here are some of the factors that determine how much precipitation a given area of the earth receives:

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o Effect of Latitude on Precipitation

At the equator the sun has its greatest effect and it heats up the air, which rises. It also evaporates water from the planet’s surface into the air. As the air rises, it cools off. When it cools off, the moisture condenses into larger droplets of water and falls back onto the surface as rain. Therefore, areas close to the equator have high rainfall.

The air, which is much dryer now, continues to rise and is forced to turn north or south. At about 30 degrees north and south of the equator, the cool, dry air descends back towards the surface. This is called a subsidence zone. Most of the deserts of the world lie near 30 degrees north or south because of the dry air.

Solar energy creates three of these circular air movement patterns called convection cells in each hemisphere--north and south. But only the cell nearest the equator (the one described above) is used as an explanation for climate later in this book.

o Effect of Rain Shadows on Precipitation

Rain shadows exist in areas where mountain ranges block the prevailing winds

coming inland from the ocean.

the wind is coming from the west across the Pacific Ocean. As air moves over the ocean it picks up evaporating water. Soon after this moist air reaches the mainland, it runs into mountain ranges. To get past the mountains, the air has to go over them. This cools the air, and a lot of the moisture in the air condenses and falls as rain on the windward side of the mountain range (windward means the side the wind is coming from). The air that gets over the mountains is very dry, and it usually causes dry conditions and even deserts on the leeward side of the mountains (leeward means the side away from the wind). Thus we have a lush temperate rain forest on the coast of Washington and Oregon, and farther inland on the other side of the mountains there are very dry conditions, almost like a desert.

For example, on the west coast of North America


Wind – the movement of air – is responsible for the redistribution of heat and moisture in the atmosphere, so it has an effect on climate also. Surface winds between the equator and 30 degrees latitude flow towards the equator. In the temperate zone (30 to 60 degrees) surface winds flow away from the equator. And in the polar zones they flow towards the equator again.

If this were the only factor affecting wind direction, most parts of the world would have northerly or southerly winds most of the time. There is another important force that alters the patterns caused by convection currents. It is called the Coriolis effect and it is caused by the earth's rotation acting on the northerly and southerly winds. It causes surface winds going south to be deflected slightly to the west, and surface winds going north to be deflected towards the east.

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b. Soil Characteristics

You may be wondering why soil has anything to do with the distribution of animals. The effect is indirect: plant species only grow in areas where both climate and soil conditions are appropriate. Because animals need plants for food and sometimes shelter, animal distribution depends on plant distribution. So both plants and animals are affected by soil conditions.


Nutrients are materials used for growth and maintenance in living things. In

terrestrial systems, plants get their nutrients from soil, and animals get their nutrients from plants. The major nutrients that plants require from the soil are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (they get other chemicals such as carbon and oxygen from the air). Plants also need several trace minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, etc. The nutrient content of soil depends largely on the mineral content of the rocks it is made from (limestone, granite, basalt, etc.). Some types of rock have very high or low levels of some minerals, so soil based on them might be

deficient in one or more nutrients. could survive in that soil.

This in turn would limit the types of plants that

Most nutrients from the soil that are taken up and used by plants eventually end up being returned to the soil by decomposition after the plant (or the animal that ate it) dies. Sometimes the return of nutrients to the soil is sped up by fire (Episode 3). You will learn about the carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus cycles later in the course.

Particle Size and Shape

The mineral component of soil comes in different sizes and shapes. Sand consists of large rounded particles. It drains well but does not hold water. So after a rainfall, the soil dries very quickly. Clay is made of small flat flakes. Because of the way these particles fit together, clay soils do not drain well, but they do hold water. Silt is very small, fine particles and has a moderate ability to drain and also to hold water. Many regions of the earth have soils that are various combinations of sand, clay and silt. Some regions have predominantly one or another of these particle types. Many plants are adapted to a specific type of soil because of its drainage and water holding characteristics in addition to its nutrient content.

Organic Content

The organic material of soil consists of dead plants and animals and animal feces in various stages of decomposition. Organic material in the soil serves as an additional source of nutrients for plants, and also adds to the water-holding capacity of the soil.

The distribution of aquatic (water-living) organisms is affected by light, temperature, nutrients, salinity, water pressure, and oxygen levels. Marine organisms (organisms

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that live in the oceans) are also affected by currents and tides. Most of these factors will be discussed in detail in episodes 8, 9, 10, and 11.

Whether they are terrestrial or aquatic, the presence of certain chemicals can be a real challenge for organisms. For example, many plants cannot live in a soil that has a high salt content. Many animals cannot live in salt water.

C. Historical or Evolutionary Biogeography

Physical factors are not the only things that affect the distribution of species on the earth. The location of the continents and how they were connected to each other has affected the distribution of species both on the land and in the oceans. To get some background, we need to look at the mechanisms that have been changing the location and connections of the land masses and oceans.

1. Plate Tectonics and Continental Drift

a. The crust of the earth is not one solid mass, but is divided into sections called "plates". The crust sits on the mantle, which is made of molten (liquid) rock. The crust is much cooler than the mantle, so the molten rock that is next to the crust cools down and sinks down into the mantle. At the same time but in different places, hot molten rock from lower regions of the mantle rises towards the crust.

If it cannot go through the crust, it is forced to flow underneath the crust and

creates currents. Friction between the mantle and the crust moves the continental plates in the direction of these currents. This movement is called

continental drift.

You can see a simulation of this process at: (“Continental Drift Animations”) or

b. The continents move as a result of plate tectonics. Where two plates are moving towards each other, either one dips below the other (subduction), or they collide, pushing upwards to form mountains. Subduction usually is accompanied by volcanic activity. In areas where two plates are moving apart, magma rises through the rift and solidifies, adding new crust. Over millions of years, continental drift has caused 1) land masses and oceans to separate and rejoin, 2) mountain ranges to be formed and 3) volcanic islands to be formed. These processes will be described in more detail in episode 1.

c. About 250 million years ago (MYA), the earth's land masses were all stuck together in

a supercontinent called Pangaea. Continental drift split and rejoined the land masses several times over those 250 million years. The series of boxes below shows the approximate sequence of events that separated them:

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India eventually moved north and joined with Eurasia. It is still pushing against the Eurasian continent, forming the Himalayan mountains. Africa and South America were split apart and are still being pushed away from each other by the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. You will learn more about these events in episode 1.

2. Species Distribution

If evolutionary history were not a factor in the distribution of species, then we would expect to find each species everywhere there is appropriate habitat. For example, there is penguin habitat in the Northern Hemisphere, but no penguins occur there naturally. There is sloth habitat in Africa, but no sloths (they are found in South America). The reason for this is that a species is found in an area because it either (1) evolved in that area or (2) dispersed to that area. Current species distribution is the result of evolution and dispersal on land masses and oceans that have been periodically separated and rejoined throughout Earth’s history.

Although this is a big topic, you only need to know a couple of facts about it to understand the material in this course:

a. Closely related species that are found on different continents are usually there because those land masses were joined at some point in the past. As one species is broken into separate populations (such as being on different continents when the land masses separate), each population begins to change in different ways. If there is enough change, the populations will become new species. This is the basic concept of speciation by which most species are produced.

b. Isolated land masses often contain many unique species.

c. Species that depend on each other occur in the same areas. In some cases this is because of a symbiotic relationship. In other cases it may be because one species needs the other species for food or shelter.

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III. Evolution and Natural Selection

A. Evolution

Simply put, evolution means genetic change over time. Evolution does not happen to an individual; evolution takes place in a group of individuals (a population).

B. Darwin and Natural Selection

The theory of natural selection was proposed by Charles Darwin. He did NOT develop the idea of evolution; he did develop the first generally accepted mechanism to explain how evolution could take place.

Darwin suggested that organisms had many more offspring than actually survived to reproduce. Therefore, there was a “struggle for survival” among various individuals. He proposed that certain conditions existed in an environment that favored the survival of certain individuals more than others. In other words, some individuals have characteristics that are “better suited” for the environment than others. If these

characteristics could be passed on to their offspring, then the offspring that received these “better” traits might also have a better chance to survive and reproduce. Over time, there are more and more members of the population with these “better” traits. Notice that it is not enough just to have “better traits”. Those traits must be passed on to offspring. Survival of the fittest means survival of those organisms that have the

most offspring that in turn go on to reproduce.

does not mean survival of the strongest, fastest or “best” organisms.

This concept is often misunderstood; it

Let’s look at a very simple example: mice that live in White Sands, New Mexico,

a habitat with white sand dunes and little vegetation. Assume that these mice come in

three colors: black, gray and white. As the mice go about their daily business, predators have a very easy time picking out the black mice on a white background. The

gray mice are also relatively easy to spot. Predators have more difficulty in spotting the white mice on the white sands. Over time, the majority of the mice who survive and live long enough to reproduce are white – so most of the offspring are white (who in turn must live long enough to reproduce and pass their white genes on to their offspring,

and so on).

mouse? Not if the mouse lives in a prairie or a forest or on a lava bed. In those places,

a white mouse is a “fast food lunch” for a predator – quick and easy to find.

Does this mean that “white coat color” is automatically a better color for a

So, from an evolutionary standpoint, what is more important? Survival or reproduction? Think about this from the standpoint of passing your genes on to the next generation? From an evolutionary point of view, reproduction is more important.


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IV. Evolutionary Adaptation

A. What is an adaptation?

An adaptation is any trait that allows an organism to be successful (to survive and reproduce in) a given environment. These traits might be physical traits such as thick fur, large flowers, good eyesight, or the presence of antifreeze in the body fluids. They might also be behavioral traits such as hunting techniques (for predators) or evasion techniques (for prey). Interactions with other species can also be adaptations if they improve the evolutionary success of a species.

As an example, cushion plants (in the genus Saxifraga) live in cold environments, such as mountain peaks or tundra. They have several adaptations to cold conditions, including: (1) the plant has a small body which hugs the ground, thus avoiding the harsh winds, (2) the plant roots in protected rock crevices, (3) it is dormant through the long winter months and thus grows very slowly, (4) it flowers very quickly once the snow is gone, and (5) it also produces new plants by growing runners from the original plant.

Many people are confused about the concept of adaptation. A plant or animal does not decide to adapt to certain conditions. Adaptation is NOT a matter of choice. The organism either has the ability to survive under certain conditions or it does not. If it does not, the plant or animal either dies or leaves. For example, if the climate changes and becomes extremely cold, some plants cannot survive the new conditions. As they die out, only the plants that can tolerate the cold will be able to grow and reproduce, passing on their "cold-tolerant" traits to their offspring. The "cold-tolerant" plants are thus described as being adapted to the environmental condition of extreme cold.

B. Where do adaptations come from?

Adaptations are traits that organisms inherit from their parents. They are NOT physical characteristics that are acquired after birth. They are also NOT a matter of choice--an organism is either born with these traits or without them.

C. Why are certain traits inherited?

Species generally produce more offspring than are needed to maintain the population (replace the parents), and not all of those offspring survive. In general, the ones that do survive are the ones that are best able to survive in the particular environment in which they live, and are also able to reproduce successfully. Reproduction passes the adaptations to new generations of the same species.

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V. Taxonomic Classification/Scientific Nomenclature

Taxonomy is the process of identifying and classifying species. It is used to group similar organisms based on shared characteristics, which become more specific as the groups get smaller. It assumes that similar organisms have properties in common and that similar organisms are closely related to each other. This way of organizing life is useful because if we know something about one member of a group, we should be able to apply that knowledge to other members of the same group.

There are definite levels of categories. The following scheme begins with the largest category (grouped together based on very broad characteristics) and goes toward the smallest category (based on very specific characteristics). We will use the fox squirrel to illustrate.

Levels of Taxonomic Classification














Sciurus niger

Each species has its own scientific name. The name is made of two Latin words. Using this example, all fox squirrels have the scientific name of Sciurus niger. All gray squirrels have the scientific name of Sciurus carolinensis. Since fox squirrels and gray squirrels are members of the same genus, they are thought to be closely related. Since the second word is different, (Sciurus niger versus Sciurus carolinensis), this tells us that these squirrels are classified into two different species.

Scientific names should be underlined when hand-written or written in italics when printed. This tradition allows a person to quickly recognize a scientific name, even if s/he has never seen it before. This also means that other levels of taxonomic classification are not underlined or italicized.


The name of our species written out by hand:

The name of our species on a printed page:

Homo sapiens

Homo sapiens

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2. Definition of Species

There are a number of different definitions of species in biology. That is partly due to the difficulty of finding a definition that works for the huge diversity of life on this planet. Since the main organisms covered in this course are plants and animals, we are going to use the biological species concept that applies to organisms that reproduce sexually.

Using this definition, the word species means a collection of similar organisms

that are capable of interbreeding under natural conditions and producing live, fertile


can interbreed and will interbreed in the wild. Secondly, live and healthy offspring can be produced, which in turn are capable of having offspring.

Notice there are two parts to this definition. First, the members of a species

Let’s go back to the example of the familiar fox squirrel (Sciurus niger). Fox squirrels can breed with each other but do not breed with gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis). Since fox squirrels and gray squirrels will not mate together, they are considered to be two different species.

VI. Ecology

Ecology is the study of relationships between organisms and their environment or surroundings. The environment itself has been described already under Physical Biogeography. But there is another way to look at ecology--these relationships can be studied at different levels:

Population - a group of individuals (of the same species) found in one geographic area. For example, all of the blue catfish found in Town Lake would represent a population.

Community - composed of all living organisms found in one geographic area. For example, all of the fish, plankton, plants, algae, turtles and other organisms in Town Lake would be a community. Often scientists study just part of the group of organisms that are found in a specific area. For example, they may just look at the plants, in which case they are studying the plant community. They may just look at the insects, in which case they are studying the insect community.

Ecosystem - all living organisms plus all physical characteristics of the environment (precipitation, climate, temperature, etc.) found in a geographic area. The Sahara

Desert is an example of an ecosystem.

aspects of the ecosystem instead of trying to look at the entirety. They might just look

at nitrogen cycling or energy flow through the ecosystem.

characteristics and soil organisms, in which case they are studying the soil ecosystem.

Once again, scientists may focus on particular

They might focus just on soil

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VII. Metric System

Measurements and distances in the videos are given in both metric and English units. Here are some of the conversion factors:

1 mile = 1.6 kilometer

1 mile = 5,280 feet

1 inch = 2.54 centimeters

1 kilogram = 2.2 pounds

1 pound = .454 kilograms

1 kilometer = 0.6 miles 1 kilometer = 1,000 meters 1 meter = 39 inches or 1.094 yards 1 meter = 100 centimeters 1 meter = 1,000 millimeters

References Campbell, Neil A and Jane B. Reece. Biology, 6 th ed. Benjamin Cummings, 2002.

Cox, C. Barry and Peter D. Moore. Biogeography, an ecological and evolutionary approach, 5/e. Blackwell Science, 1993.

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1. Look at the following map of the world and answer the questions below.


a. Fill in the three labels on the left side of the map.

b. The numbers at the base of the map represent (Choose between latitude and longitude.)

c. The numbers on the right side of the map represent (Choose between latitude and longitude.)

d. The spot marked “X” is located at approximately

latitude and


(Don’t forget to include N, S, E, or W.)

2. What is the difference between latitude and longitude?

3. What is the difference between the earth’s revolution and the earth’s rotation?

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4. What is the difference between an ocean and a sea?

5. Define and describe the concept of a species tolerance zone. Differentiate between the optimal range, stress zones, tolerance limits and lethal zones.

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6. Define limiting factor. Compare and contrast the limiting factor of terrestrial organisms with those of aquatic organisms.

7. Compare and contrast biotic and abiotic factors. Give examples.

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8. Compare and contrast producers, herbivores, predators and decomposers. Give examples.

9. Explain the two main components of climate that influence species distribution. Explain how they vary with latitude and altitude.

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10. Discuss the effect of ocean currents on climate.

11. Describe a rain shadow and its effects upon precipitation.

12. What is the role of wind in climate?

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13. Why are soil characteristics important in determining the distribution of animals?

14. Discuss the roles nutrients, particle size and shape, and organic content play in determining soil characteristics.

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15. Describe plate tectonics and continental drift.

16. What effects have plate tectonics and continental drift had on the distribution of species?

17. Which modern continents were part of:

a. Pangaea

b. Laurasia

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18. Describe the concepts of evolution and natural selection.

19. Describe the concept of evolutionary adaptation.

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20. Define taxonomy and briefly explain why it is important.

21. List the levels of taxonomic classification in correct order from largest to smallest.

22. Define species, using the biological species concept. Give examples.

23. What is ecology?

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24. Compare and contrast populations, communities and ecosystems.

25. Be familiar with the portion of the metric system listed in the introduction.

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Read the CONCEPTS section in the study guide for episode 1. Answer the Concepts Study Questions. Watch Video Episode 1 – The Building of the Earth. Answer the Video Study Questions.


To become acquainted with:

1. Symbiosis

2. Characteristics of life

3. Ecology of mountains: location, climate, characteristics, zonation, life forms and adaptations

4. Volcanic activity

5. Colonization process that occurs after volcanic eruptions

6. Succession

7. Ecology of deep sea vents: locations, characteristics, life forms and adaptations

8. Ecology of hot springs: locations, characteristics, life forms and adaptations

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One noticeable characteristic of mountains is the presence of distinct life zones. As you start at the bottom of a mountain and go towards the top, you move through different layers, each with its own particular group of plants and animals.

What causes zonation? The principle factor is temperature. As you increase altitude, the temperature becomes colder. Plants that live on the top of tall mountains must be able to withstand more cold than plants that live at the bottom. As the plant community changes, the animal community changes as well, since animals rely upon plants for their food. As the temperature drops, the amount of snow and ice increases.

Latitude also has an effect on zonation. If you compare a mountain in the tropics to a mountain in Colorado, you will have to go to higher altitudes in the tropics to reach the same conditions of cold. As a result, the comparable life zones are found at different altitudes. The following tables show the influence of latitude on life zones.

TABLE 1: UPPER LIMIT OF TIMBERLINE. This shows the average altitude (in meters) at which trees CANNOT grow.



Upper Limit of Timberline

Mt. Kilimanjaro

equatorial Africa

3,000 meters

Mt. Etna


2,200 meters

Ural Mountains


1,100 meters

(Reference: Ricciuti, E. R. 1979. Wildlife of the Mountains. Harry N. Abrams, Inc., NY.)

TABLE 2: ALPINE ZONE FOR DIFFERENT MOUNTAINS. This shows the average altitudes (in meters) at which the alpine zone is found.

Mountain Name

Altitudes for Alpine Zone

Western Alps, Europe


to 2800 meters

Central Rockies, North America


to 3100 meters

Eastern Himalayas, Asia


to 5500 meters

Mount Kenya, Africa


to 4200 meters

(Reference: Ricciuti, E. R. 1979. Wildlife of the Mountains. Harry N. Abrams, Inc., NY.)

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Other physical factors affect zonation. Wind can have a major impact upon plant life. Generally, winds are stronger at higher altitudes. Plants that live on high mountain peaks are buffeted by strong winds, especially when they are not insulated by snow. These plants generally are small and hug the ground, which exposes less of the plant body to the wind.

In the northern hemisphere, southern-facing slopes are generally sunnier, warmer and drier than northern-facing slopes. Other factors - loose soil, volcanic rubble, avalanches - can also affect vegetation.

Zonation in the Himalayas

In the tape, Attenborough begins in the deep valley and climbs upward towards the mountain peaks. He describes five distinct life zones, which are further explained below. The altitudes given are average altitudes.

(1) lower reaches of the deep valley. The climate is warm, humid and tropical. There is lush vegetation of many species, including bamboo and many rhododendron trees. Animals are numerous, including tigers, rhinoceros and many birds. Watch the tape for descriptions of the animals found here: langur monkeys, ring-necked parakeets and pheasants.

(2) 1000 meters - rhododendron trees dominate. The air is still moist but the temperature is cooler, with many warm days and cold nights. Night frosts are common. Watch the tape for descriptions of the organisms found in the cooler forests: orchids, moss, close- packed flowering plants, Himalayan panda, musk deer.

(3) 2500 to 3300 meters - coniferous forests of Himalayan fir and Bhutan pines. Animals on the tape include yellow-throated marten, Himalayan bear, ants, insects and rodents.

(4) 3300 to 4400 meters - shrubs, grasses and small cushioned flowering plants. Watch the tape for the animals who live here - bearded vultures, snowcocks, tahrs and choughs.

(5) 4400 to 5400 meters - lichens.

Above this altitude (5400 meters), there is no vegetation. The ground is covered with snow and ice.


The meaning of symbiosis may be somewhat vague but it is still useful. Commonly, symbiosis refers to a very close relationship between two different organisms. In fact, the word "symbiosis" translates into "living together." Most ecologists use symbiosis to represent a relationship which (1) is required by at least one partner in order to survive or reproduce and (2) benefits at least one partner.

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Symbiosis is a broad ecological term (often abused and misused) that refers to organisms living in close association with one another. There are different kinds of symbiosis: mutualism, commensalism and parasitism. In mutualism, both partners benefit from the relationship. In commensalism, one partner benefits and the other gets no apparent benefit nor is harmed. In parasitism, one partner (the parasite) benefits from the relationship while the other (the host) is harmed.

So what is the problem with clearly defining symbiosis? Symbiotic relationships are not always simple and straightforward. Some appear obvious. The termite cannot digest the cellulose in wood. The termite must have living one-celled organisms called flagellates in its gut to digest cellulose. The termite provides the flagellates with wood; the flagellates provide the termites with food. Seems like a clear-cut relationship, doesn't it? Further study has shown that the flagellates contain bacteria inside their bodies; it is the bacteria inside the flagellate that actually digest the cellulose. So, this is a mutualistic relationship between three species: termites, flagellates and bacteria. Everybody wins.

Not all relationships fit the definition of only one category of symbiosis. Understand that these categories are our attempt to make sense of what we observe in the natural world. Nature does not necessarily fit into our categories. A case in point is the symbiotic relationship found in lichens. For many years, lichens were the "classic" example of mutualism.

A lichen is formed by an association between one kind of algae and one fungus. Traditionally, it was felt that both organisms benefited from the relationship. The algae provide food by photosynthesis; the fungus provides nutrients, through decomposition, which the algae need for growth. Lichens are usually considered to be an example of mutualism. However, this is not always so clear-cut. Under some situations, the fungus eats the algae. When this occurs, the relationship then becomes parasitic.

There are other factors to consider. The algae can live without the fungus; the fungus cannot live without the algae. However, the combination of the fungus plus the algae forms a totally different "organism" (the lichen) with characteristics that are different from either partner. Many species of algae and fungi form these relationships and they are so specific that particular lichens are considered to be lichen species, each with its own specific shape, color and preference of substrate (type of rock, wood, etc.)

So, what is a lichen? Is it mutualistic or parasitic? Well, a lichen can be mutualistic at one time and parasitic at another time. Complex relationships found in nature can be very difficult to categorize.

Lichens are very important organisms in many ecosystems. Since the fungus can break down bare surfaces, such as rock or wood, the lichen is able to colonize surfaces that other organisms cannot. The algae provide the food while the lichen breaks down the substrate. As a result, the surface is changed, often providing opportunities for plants to move into the area.

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In very harsh environments, such as mountain peaks, polar regions and bare

rock surfaces, lichens become very important sources of food. Reindeer moss (which is

a type of lichen) is even able to grow on the soils of tundra and northern coniferous

forests. As you watch episodes 1 and 2, pay attention to the animals that eat lichens.

Lichens are able to absorb nutrients that are dissolved in rain and dew. Because of this, lichens are very sensitive to air pollution, especially heavy metals and acid rain. Lichens can thus be used as an indirect measure of some types of air quality. Look around Austin. Do you see lichens? What does that tell you about air quality in Austin?

If lichens begin to disappear, what will that indicate?

HYDROTHERMAL VENTS Hydrothermal vents were first discovered in 1977 by scientists examining the volcanic ridges of the Pacific Ocean floor, near the Galapagos Islands. These hydrothermal vents are deep-sea springs that release water that has been heated to very high temperatures by underwater volcanoes. In the process, the heated water picks up large amounts of sulfides. When it comes out of the hydrothermal vent, the sulfides are released into the cold deep-sea waters.

Living near the hydrothermal vents is an entire community of organisms that take advantage of the sulfide-rich waters. The sulfides are used by chemosynthetic bacteria that use the energy from sulfides to produce their own food. Giant tube worms contain bacteria in their tissues, apparently living in a symbiotic relationship. The tube worm receives food from the bacteria living in its body. In exchange, the tube worm concentrates sulfides in its blood, which are then delivered to the bacteria for processing. Other organisms - mussels, giant clams and polychaete worms - filter bacteria from the water. For a while, it was thought that this was the only system on earth that did not rely upon sunlight for energy. Recently, other enclosed ecosystems (caves) have been discovered that are also based on chemosynthetic bacteria.

Website for hydrothermal vents:

Reference for hydrothermal vents:

Smith, Robert Leo. 1992. Elements of Ecology, 3rd edition. HarperCollins, NY.

There are numerous journal articles written about hydrothermal vents. These are two references available from the ACC Libraries:

Grassle, J. F. 1985. Hydrothermal vent animals: Distribution and biology. Science 229: 713-717.

Grassle, J. F. 1991. Deep-sea benthic diversity. Bioscience 41: 464-469.

Reference for cave ecosystem:

Discover, January 1997.

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1. Describe the factors that affect zonation in mountains

2. Define symbiosis and state the two criteria used by ecologists to determine whether or not a relationship is symbiotic.

3. Define and compare the three different kinds of symbiotic relationship described in the CONCEPTS.

4. Describe the relationship between termites, flagellates and bacteria, including the benefit to each species in the relationship.

5. Describe the organisms that form lichens and the relationship between them.

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6. Explain why it is difficult to decide whether lichens represent mutualism or parasitism.

7. Describe why lichens are sensitive to air pollution.

8. Describe a hydrothermal vent.

9. The energy that supports the organisms living near a hydrothermal vent comes from

10. What kind of bacteria can use the energy in sulfides to produce their own food?

11. Describe the relationship between chemosynthetic bacteria and giant tube worms.

12. Describe the relationship between chemosynthetic bacteria and mussels, giant clams and polychaete worms.

13. Where, besides hydrothermal vents, have chemosynthetic bacteria been found?

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1. In what way is the Earth unique?

2. What are the two essential requirements for life? Where is life most abundant on Earth?

3. How much of the Earth's surface is covered with water? Where did life begin?

Locator: Himalayas

4. Describe the location of the deep valley through which the Kali Gandaki River flows.

5. Describe the vegetation that is found in the deep valley. What is the climate? Why do the rhododendrons produce blossoms?

6. Describe the animal life found in the deep valleys:

a. langur monkeys

b. ring-necked parakeet

c. blood pheasant

d. tragopan pheasant (the male pheasant is called the cock and the female is called the hen)

e. impeyanus pheasant

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7. Be able to describe the changes that occur in the climate, vegetation and animal life as one moves from the valley to the highest peaks. (Be able to identify the 5 life zones.)

Locator: "As you walk higher


[Note - about 1000 meters altitude]

8. What changes take place in the rhododendron forest? What other plant life is found here? What adaptation is seen in the flowering plants?

9. Describe the animals that are found in the cooler rhododendron forests. What adaptations are seen in these animals? What is their diet?

a. Himalayan panda

b. Musk deer

c. griffon vultures

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10. How does the physical environment affect the animals and plants that live in that environment? How does the vegetation influence the animal life?

Locator: Fir Forests

[Note - about 2500 meters]

11. What type of trees are found in this forest? What physical factor is responsible for the lack of rhododendrons?

12. Describe the following animals and their adaptations to life in the fir forests. What is their diet?

a. yellow throated marten

b. Himalayan bear

Locator: 10,000 feet [about 3000 meters]

13. What is happening to the fir forest? What is different about the climate?

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14. What is unusual about the Kali Gandaki River?

Locator: Village

15. Describe the following animals that are found at high altitudes. What do they eat? [Note - altitude is about 3500 meters]

a. lammergeier or bearded vulture

b. snowcock

c. tahr

d. red-billed chough

e. yellow-billed chough

Locator: "Higher still


[Note: about 4500 meters]

16. What type of organism can grow at very high altitudes? How long is the growing season?

17. As the altitude increases, what happens to the vegetation?

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18. What other mammal (besides man) can live at very high altitudes? What adaptations are seen in animals and humans who live at very high altitudes?

======================================================================= ADDITIONAL INFO: In his book, Attenborough also explains that chests and lungs are larger in

highland people.

altitudes. Above 6000 meters, women cannot have children, according to Attenborough. The problem is providing sufficient oxygen to the developing young. (p. 18)


Even with these changes, humans have not fully adapted to very high

19. How old are the Himalayas? When were they formed? What evidence shows that they were once at the bottom of the sea?

Locator: Iceland

20. What is basalt? How is it formed?

21. How are basalt columns, such as those found in the Hebrides, formed?

Locator: Africa

22. How are lava lakes formed?

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Locator: Icelandic Volcano

23. How are volcanic islands formed?

24. Describe the ridge found on the Atlantic floor. [Note: this is called the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.]

25. Explain how the continents of Africa and South America were separated.

26. Describe the events happening to the plate that forms the eastern part of the Pacific ocean floor. Describe the trench formed at the western edge of North America. What is different about volcanic activity as a result of the trench?

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Locator: Mount St. Helens

27. What was the impact of the volcanic eruption that occurred on May 18, 1980 at Mount St Helens?

Locator: "On the opposite side of the Pacific"

28. Describe the volcanic eruptions that occurred when a volcano erupted on Krakatau on August 27, 1883.

29. What was the impact of this eruption upon the climatic conditions of the earth?

30. Describe the changes that have occurred since the initial eruption, including the formation of Anak.

31. What are volcanic fumes composed of?

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Locator: Underwater Volcanoes [deep sea springs or hydrothermal vents]

32. What happens to sulphurous fumes when volcanoes erupt on the ocean floor?

33. Describe the organisms that draw their energy from underwater volcanoes.

34. What is unusual about this group of organisms?

Locator: Hot Springs, New Zealand

35. How are hot springs formed? How is boiling mud produced?

Locator: Hot Springs, Yellowstone Park

36. Describe the algae mats and the community that develops on the algae mats. (grubs are insect larvae)

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37. How are the algae mats and their residents destroyed?

Locator: Rift Valley, Africa

38. What is the primary animal that harvests the single cell algae found in the hot spring lakes in the Rift Valley? How many tons of algae are harvested each day?

Locator: Basalt Lava Flow

39. How are basalt lava flows eventually colonized by plants?

40. Describe lava tunnels (actually called lava tubes).

How are they formed? Describe the

vegetation and animals that are found in the lava tubes. How have these animals

adapted to the conditions of the lave tubes?

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Locator: Mount St. Helens

41. Why is the colonization of volcanic ash difficult for plants?

42. Describe the appearance of Mount St. Helens in 1982.

======================================================================= ADDITIONAL INFO: Within a short period of time, plants began the colonization period. As Attenborough explains in his book (pg 36), one flowering plant, the fire-weed, regularly colonizes volcanic ash. As fire-weed and other herbaceous plants took hold, the conditions of the ash changed. As the plants bloomed and died, their decomposing bodies provided nutrients

for other plants, such as shrubs, to move into the area and become established. Within 5 years,

dogwoods, blackberries and blueberries had colonized the slopes.

eventually replace the shrubs and flowering plants, thus replacing the original forests that were destroyed.

Over time, trees may

This illustrates the ecological concept of succession. Succession refers to change in community structure over time. The first plants to move into an area are usually called pioneer species. As the conditions change, pioneer species are usually replaced by other plants that can now grow in the "changed" conditions. As new plants move in, the environment continues to change. Often, this continues until the climax community moves in. The climax community

is a mixture of plants that will grow and be replaced by their own offspring, as opposed to other

types of plants. Once the climax community is established, succession is over disturbance (such as fire or drought or hurricane or volcanic eruption) occurs.

until a

Check out more recent information (and pictures) about the recovery of this area at:

Scroll down and click on 25 years of Change.

Question from the video: Name one pioneer plant from Mount St. Helens. =======================================================================

Locator: Krakatau's Child (Identified as Anak earlier in the tape)

43. Describe the conditions of Anak. What plants have colonized this relatively new island? (the name of the tree is casuarina)

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Locator: Rakata (island remnant of Krakatau)

44. Describe the changes in vegetation and animal life that have occurred on Rakata, the remaining island fragment of Krakatau, since the volcanic eruption 100 years ago.

45. Which types of animals are NOT found on Rakata?

Locator: Indian Plate Moving Towards Asia (Return to Himalayas)

46. How did the movement of continental plates create the Himalayas?

47. How fast is the Indian plate still moving north into Asia?

48. Are the Himalayas growing, shrinking or staying the same?

49. How was the valley formed by the Kali Gandaki River?

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Read the CONCEPTS section in the study guide for episode 2. Answer the Concepts Study Questions. Watch Video Episode 2 – The Frozen World. Answer the Video Study Questions .


To become acquainted with:

1. Where the cold regions of the earth are located

2. Problems of living in cold climates

3. Adaptations of life forms that live in cold climates

4. Typical life forms that live in cold climates

5. Relationship between body shape, size and cold

6. Ecology of Antarctica: location, climate, characteristics, life forms and adaptations

7. Ecology of the Arctic: location, climate, characteristics, life forms and adaptations

8. Differences between Antarctica and the Arctic

9. Tundra ecology: location, climate, characteristics, life forms and adaptations

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COLD AND WINDY PLACES There are three regions of the Earth that experience extremely cold and windy conditions. These are (1) high mountain peaks, (2) polar regions, and (3) tundra.

Polar regions are areas where surface ice and snow remain frozen year round. There are two polar regions: Antarctica and the Arctic Ocean. Antarctica is the huge polar continent of the Southern Hemisphere. It is surrounded by a permanent ice pack and the land is permanently buried by a mile or so of glacier ice. The Arctic Ocean is the ocean that covers the North Pole, which has a permanent ice pack on its surface.

================================================================= Authors' Note: The region on Earth is the Arctic. Artic is an ice-beer. Why is this word butchered by the beer company? Well, your guess is as good as ours. Perhaps, no one taught the ad people how to spell. Perhaps there is a trademark on "Arctic". Perhaps someone thought it was cute. In this class, if you misspell Arctic (place) as Artic (beer), your answer will be graded on the basis of the beer.

================================================================= Tundra is found in areas where the climate is warm enough in summer to melt surface ice and snow and thaw a few inches of the soil. A permanently frozen layer (the

permafrost) is located beneath the surface of the soil.

northernmost lands of North America and Eurasia. Between the arctic tundra and the North Pole is the frozen pack ice described above. Alpine tundra occurs high on mountains, but not necessarily on top of the mountain. On the tops of very high mountains the snow never melts and the soil, if there is any, never thaws. Tundra only refers to areas where the surface soil thaws briefly in the summer

Arctic tundra occurs on the

All three regions experience intense cold and high winds. The polar and arctic tundra regions experience long periods of darkness as well. The earth's axis points toward the sun in the summer and away from the sun in the winter. During the winter, within 30 degrees of the pole, there is complete darkness for several months.

The polar regions were not always cold. 140 million years ago, the polar regions were warmer because the continents were located in different positions. This allowed the ocean currents to bring warm water all the way to the poles, preventing the water there from freezing.

At that time, the continent of Antarctica wasn't at the South Pole, either. It was part of a supercontinent called Gondwana, along with South America, Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Gondwana was located close to the equator. Then the continents split apart and drifted away from each other. Antarctica moved to its present position over the south pole, cutting off the flow of warm ocean currents, freezing the oceans around the continent and creating the intensely cold, windy conditions that exist there today.

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PROBLEMS THAT FACE ORGANISMS THAT LIVE IN COLD PLACES Two main problems face organisms living in extremely cold places. First, extreme cold kills cells. When the liquid water inside a cell freezes and ice crystals form, the cell membrane and/or cell walls rupture as the ice crystals expand, killing the cells.

Extreme cold also slows down vital biochemical reactions. The rate at which chemical reactions occur is dependent on temperature. This rule applies not only to simple chemical reactions in a chemistry laboratory, but also to the complex biochemical reactions that occur inside living organisms. Up to a certain point, the higher the temperature, the faster a chemical reaction will run. Applied in reverse, the lower the temperature, the slower the chemical reactions, which can be a serious problem to living things.

In many animals, such as lizards and insects, internal metabolism cannot be used to provide heat to increase their body temperature. Instead, they must rely upon the environment for a heat source. These animals can raise and lower their body temperature through behavior. These animals are called ectotherms.

Let’s look at a typical ectotherm, a lizard. At night, a lizard's body temperature falls and it becomes sluggish as the biochemical reactions that fuel its muscles slow down as environmental temperatures fall. Remember, it cannot burn fuel to allow its metabolism to keep its body warm. During the day, it basks in the sunlight to raise its body temperature to a level at which its biochemical reactions can occur at a rate fast enough that it can become active and hunt for food. If it gets too hot, the lizard moves into the shade to cool down.

In extremely cold conditions, the lizard faces two problems. Body temperature becomes so low that its biochemical reactions become extremely slow. Also, its cell membranes would solidify to the point that its nerves would not be able to transmit signals. Without a properly functioning nervous system, the lizard would not be able to regulate important body processes, such as breathing and heart rate. The lizard would die. As a general rule, few ectotherms are found in extremely cold places on land.

Birds and mammals have a different approach to solving these same problems. They do not rely on the sun to provide their only heat source. They generate their own body heat by burning lots of fuel inside their cells. These animals are called endotherms. Notice that endotherms also use behavior to help regulate body temperature, especially when it is hot. You’re an endotherm and you move into the sun to warm up and into the shade to cool down. Big difference: at night, you are not sluggish even if it is cold outside.

Because they generate their body heat internally, they can survive cold temperatures without their biochemical reactions slowing down. However, they can only survive if they can find enough food to fuel the furnaces inside their cells. As the temperature drops, more heat is lost from the surface of their bodies, and the lost heat

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must be replaced by eating more food. If they cannot meet the high demands for food, they will begin to cool off.

Unlike lizards and insects, birds and mammals cannot tolerate large changes in their body temperature. Their brain and other complex organs are fine-tuned to normal body temperature and will not operate properly if the body temperature is a few degrees higher or lower than normal. Thus, only a small amount of cooling will cause these organs to fail in carrying out their usual functions. If these organs fail, the animal dies.

ADAPTATIONS TO THE PROBLEMS OF LIVING IN COLD PLACES Organisms have evolved a variety of solutions to solve these problems. One solution is adding antifreeze to body fluids. This is one way to prevent ice from forming. Antifreeze lowers the freezing point of water by adding chemicals to the water. For example, automotive antifreeze contains the chemical ethylene glycol which, when added to the water in a car radiator, lowers the freezing point so that the water will not freeze and rupture the radiator. The animals still get very cold, it’s just that their body fluids don’t freeze as readily when they contain some kind of antifreeze.

In animals, antifreeze molecules are chemicals that lower the freezing point of the body fluids and prevent ice crystals from forming within the body. For example, the blood of the Antarctic icefish, Trematomus, contains a glycoprotein that is 200-500 times more effective than salt at lowering the freezing point of water. Watch for other examples of animals that use antifreeze in the episode.

Insulation is another solution to these problems. Endotherms use layers of insulation to trap as much of their body heat as possible next to the surface of their skin. By trapping heat in this way, the animals do not have to eat as much to replace lost heat.

Mammals use fur as insulation. In mammals that live in cold areas, there are two layers of fur. The outer layer consists of guard hairs, usually long and coarse. The inner layer, the undercoat, consists of a thick layer of fine wooly hairs. The undercoat traps air in the spaces between the hairs. Air does not transmit heat very readily, so the trapped air prevents the rapid loss of heat. Mammals that live in extremely cold climates have thicker fur than those that live in less frigid areas. Humans have taken advantage of this in the past by hunting the animals of the Arctic regions for their fur to make insulating layers (coats) for people.

All mammals can make their insulating layer thicker by fluffing up their fur. Tiny muscles at the base of each hair contract, pulling the hair more perpendicular to the skin, and making the insulating layer thicker. The fur traps more air, and less heat is lost. Many mammals change the thickness of their insulating layer with the seasons. They grow a thick undercoat as winter approaches, and shed it in the spring, as warmer weather approaches. Look for the following examples of fur as insulation as you watch the episode: the snow leopard, the hyrax, the vicuña and the guanaco, and the fur seal.

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Birds use feathers as insulation. Again, there are two layers of feathers. The outer layer consists of contour feathers. Contour feathers are smaller versions of the familiar wing feathers. They cover the inner layer of feathers, the down. Down feathers do not have a long quill or vanes like wing and contour feathers do. Instead, they have a short quill with fluffy tufts that excel at trapping air, thus establishing an insulating layer just like in the mammals. Humans have long taken advantage of the insulating properties of down feathers by plucking geese and ducks and using the down in feather pillows, coats, mattresses, etc. Birds can fluff their feathers to increase the thickness of the insulating layer, so on a cold day, they look larger than on a warm day. Look for the sunbirds fluffing up their feathers as you watch the episode.

Swimming birds and mammals have more trouble with insulation than land animals, because water is much more efficient at transmitting heat than the air. Thus, birds and mammals that swim tend to have thick insulation layers. Penguins are swimming birds. Their feathers are especially adapted to provide excellent insulation. Long and thin, with tips that point inward towards the body, the contour feathers have tufts at the base that mat together to make a barrier that water cannot penetrate. They also have feathers covering almost their whole bodies, including almost all the way down their legs. Adelie penguins even have feathers on their beaks! Most birds do not have such complete coverage.

Another type of insulation is blubber. Blubber is a thick layer of fat underneath the skin that forms a blanket trapping heat within the body. (Like air, it transmits heat less efficiently than water.) The whales are a great example of mammals that use blubber for insulation. Whales have little body hair and rely on blubber for all their insulation as they swim in cold ocean water. Consequently, their blubber layers are very thick. Humans have taken advantage of whale blubber in the past, by using the blubber to produce whale oil which was burned in lamps. Even today, the Inuit (Eskimos) hunt whales and consider the blubber an excellent food. Look for these animals which use blubber as insulation as you watch the episode: the true seals, such as the elephant seal, and the penguins. Be sure to note how their blubber allows the elephant seal to dive to great depths, and why the fur seal must stay in surface waters.

Animals are not the only organisms that use insulation to protect themselves from the cold. When you watch the episode, note how the two different species of lobelia use different methods of insulation to protect themselves from freezing temperatures.

Body size can also be a solution to the problems of extreme cold. Large animals have a smaller amount of surface relative to their volume than do smaller animals. Thus, they have less surface across which heat can escape, and they lose heat less rapidly to their environment than do small animals. Therefore, animals that live in extremely cold areas are often larger than their relatives that live in milder climates. Look for these examples as you watch the episode: the polar bear, the king penguin and the emperor penguin.

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The coloration of an organism can help it protect itself from the intense cold. Dark colors such as black or deep brown absorb most of the light that hits them. The light energy is transformed into heat that can be used to warm an animal or plant. Light colors, on the other hand, reflect much of the light that hits them. Look for the following examples of organisms that use dark colors to help them stay warm as you watch the episode: the primitive insects that live at high altitude on mountains; blue-green algae in Antarctica.

The color of an organism can also be used for other purposes. Many animals use camouflage, in which their coloration matches that of the background. Animals that hunt use the camouflage to avoid being seen by their prey, and plant-eating animals use camouflage to avoid being eaten by predators.

Many mammals and birds that live in snowy places are white to match their white background. Because they generate their own body heat, they do not need dark coloration to help them stay warm. Mammals and birds that live in tundra areas where the snow melts in the summer often change their coloration from white to brown so that they remain camouflaged. Look for the following animals that use coloration for camouflage while you watch the episode: the Arctic fox, the polar bear, the snowy owl, the ptarmigan. Which of these animals change colors with the seasons?

Polar bears are well camouflaged by their white coloration. And they use it to ambush seals, as you will see as you watch the episode. But their white coloration is an exception to the rule of white reflecting more light. They look white because their hair is transparent, which allows the sunlight to penetrate their thick fur to the skin, where the light is absorbed and transformed into heat which is used to warm the body.

Birds that live in polar regions do not have feathers on their feet or, except for penguins, on their legs. Because they lack insulation in these areas, it seems like they should lose a lot of heat through their feet. They can stand barefoot on a glacier and not freeze to death because of the arrangement of blood vessels in their legs. Arteries bring warm blood from the body to the feet and veins return cold blood from the feet to the body. As they return to the body, the veins pass close to the arteries. HEAT is transferred from the warm blood in the arteries to the cold blood in the veins, and is carried back into the body instead of being lost to the environment. This is called countercurrent exchange, the exchange of materials or heat between two fluids flowing in opposite directions. [PLEASE NOTE: HEAT is transferred, not blood.]

Look at the diagram on the next page to see how heat flows out of the blood of the hot artery and into the blood of the cold vein.

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33º C




35º C

blood flow

27º C


30º C

heat transfer

18º C


20º C

9º C


10º C


      

Hibernation is another method used by animals to deal with extremely cold conditions. When an animal hibernates, it finds a safe place, usually a protected burrow or other hole in the ground, and settles in for the winter. The animal's metabolic rate (the rate at which it burns fuel) decreases and its body temperature drops. By decreasing its metabolic rate, it can avoid eating during a time of the year when food would be very difficult to find.

Many of the tundra area residents do not stay there year round. They escape the extreme cold through migration. The winters are too severe, so they migrate towards the equator to less severe climates. You may wonder why they ever go to the tundra at all. They migrate to the tundra areas in the summer to breed because food is very abundant and, because the sun does not set, they can feed all day long.

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ANIMAL COMMUNITIES OF ARCTIC AND ANTARCTIC Even though they are both polar regions, the animal communities of the Arctic and Antarctic regions differ in many ways. In Antarctica, there are no large terrestrial predators. Once animals such as seals and penguins are on the land, they are relatively safe from predators. (However, their young are still vulnerable to predators such as the skua, a large predatory seagull which attacks penguin chicks and eggs, or to other members of their species, such as the large bull seals which may trample or attack seal pups.)

Why aren't there any large terrestrial predators in Antarctica? No large terrestrial predators were present on the continent when it split from the rest of Gondwana. Because it is isolated from other continents by the Southern Ocean and because its climate is so harsh, no large terrestrial predators have been able to colonize the area.

The Arctic region does have large terrestrial predators such as the polar bear and the Arctic fox. In this area, the large continents of North America, Europe and Asia

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extend into the Arctic region from warmer regions further south. Large terrestrial predators have been able to move into this area. Thus, the animals that live in the Arctic must have adaptations for defense against these large predators. An example is the guillemots and auks; although they look and behave much like penguins, they have retained their powers of flight, which they can use to escape from large terrestrial predators.

The lack of isolation of the Arctic region also means that land animals such as the caribou can migrate to and from the area. They migrate north in the summer to take advantage of the rich food supply and south in the winter to escape the harshest cold and windy conditions. Many Antarctic animals migrate, too, but they must all be able to swim or fly.

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1. Describe and compare the two polar regions with respect to types of ice and presence or absence of land.

2. Compare the locations of arctic and alpine tundra.

3. Describe the two main problems for organisms living in extremely cold places.

4. Compare ectotherms and endotherms. Describe the advantages or disadvantages of being an ectotherm or an endotherm living in a cold climate.

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5. Describe the various adaptations to cold that are used mostly by endotherms.

6. Compare the animal life of the Arctic and the Antarctic.

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Locator: Mt. Rainier

1. What is the significance of red snow? How do these organisms produce food? What do they need in order to grow and reproduce?

2. Describe the yearly movements of ladybugs at Mt. Rainier.

3. What do the permanent insect residents use as food?

4. What is unusual about the grylloblattids?

Locator: Mt. McKinley

5. How do the other animal inhabitants, such as the Dahl sheep and ground squirrels, cope with the winter months?

6. What are the problems that face plants that live on steep, high slopes?

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Locator: Himalayas

7. Describe the blue sheep.

8. Describe the snow leopard and its adaptations to life in the cold mountain environment.

Locator: Mountains of Africa

9. At what altitude do you find the giant groundsels and giant lobelias?

10. What conflicting problems do plants that live on Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Kenya face?

11. Describe the lobelias that form rosettes. How do they protect themselves from freezing and desiccation?

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12. How do the tall lobelias protect themselves from freezing and desiccation?

13. Describe the sunbirds. What is their relationship to lobelias?

14. Describe the hyrax that live among the rocks. Why do they come out during the day?

Locator: Mountains of South America

15. How do these mountains differ from the mountains in Africa?

16. Describe the vicuña and its adaptations to mountain life.

17. What is the guanaco? How do the people of the Andes use it? At what altitudes does it live?

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18. What change occurs to the permanent snowline of the Andes as you start at the equator and travel south, towards Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego?

19. Explain why the poles are colder than the equator.

Locator: South Orkneys

20. Describe the two flowering plants that are found on these remote cold islands. (The name of one of the plants is “thrift”)

21. How do the mosses and lichens survive the extreme cold of these remote islands? What animals live in the mosses and lichens? How do they survive?

22. How is pack ice different from the ice in icebergs?

Locator: Antarctica

23. Describe the valleys found in the interior of Antarctica. What are the conditions in these valleys? How does this differ from the rest of Antarctica?

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24. Describe the life forms that live between the valley stones. How have they adapted to the harsh conditions?

Locator: Antarctic Glaciers

25. How are pools and streams formed in the Antarctic interior?

26. What life forms are found in these pools and streams? How do they get food?

Locator: Antarctica Coast

27. Where does life flourish in the Antarctic?

28. Describe the fur seals. What do they eat? How do they differ from true seals? What adaptations allow them to swim and feed in the surface waters?

29. Why are fur seals not able to dive to great depths?

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30. Describe the elephant seals and their adaptations to the cold waters. What do they eat?

================================================================== CLARIFICATION: Elephant seals are one type of "true seal". ==================================================================

31. Why do the elephant seals have to leave the water once a year?

Locator: South Georgia

32. Where did penguins evolve? Where are penguins found today?

33. What adaptations are found in penguins?

34. What are some of the differences between these penguins: Macaroni penguins, jackass penguins, king penguins and emperor penguins.

35. What is the advantage of large size? What is one disadvantage that faces king penguins?

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36. Describe the Emperor penguins.

37. Describe the manner in which Emperor penguins incubate their eggs and rear their young. What is unusual about the timing?

Locator: North Pole

38. Describe the guillemots. What adaptations are seen in the auk family?

39. Why do auks and penguins look similar? Are they closely related?

40. How is the Arctic different from the Antarctic? How does this affect the animal life of the Arctic?

41. Describe the Arctic fox. What does it eat?

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42. Describe the polar bear. What do they eat? What are polar bears related to?

43. What adaptations to cold are found in the polar bears?

44. What Arctic animals are scavengers?

45. Why do ringed seals have ice holes? What is the problem with having regular ice holes?

46. Describe the old lifestyle of the Eskimos (Inuit).

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47. What conditions are responsible for the cold, enclosed polar seas? What effect does this have on the nearby land masses?

Locator: The Tundra

48. Describe the tundra.

49. What causes ridges shaped like polygons to form in the tundra?

50. What is permafrost? What makes permafrost a significant factor in the tundra ecosystem?

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51. How is a pingo formed?

52. How long is the summer growing season in the tundra?

53. How have small flowering plants adapted to life on the tundra?

54. What tree is found growing on the Arctic tundra? What is unusual about this tree?

55. Describe the lemming. What is unusual about their reproductive capability?

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56. What is the major predator of the lemming?

57. Describe the migration of the caribou. Why do they migrate north? Why do they return south in the fall?

58. Describe the migration of the snow geese. Why do they migrate north? Why do

they migrate south in the fall? Where do they spend the winter? gosling is a young goose)

(Note: a

59. What type of animal is a ptarmigan? What do ptarmigan eat?

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60. What do caribou eat?

61. Describe the insects that grow during the summer: mosquitoes and black fly.

62. What does the red-necked phalarope eat?

63. A square yard of fresh water in the tundra can produce season.

insects in a

64. How do caribou sustain themselves over the winter? Where do they spend the winter?

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Read the CONCEPTS section in the study guide for episode 3. Answer the Concepts Study Questions. Watch Video Episode 3 – The Northern Forests Answer the Video Study Questions.


To become acquainted with:

1. Characteristics of conifers

2. Differences between conifers and flowering plants

3. Reproductive cycle of conifers vs. flowering plants

4. Layers of a typical forest

5. Food chains and food webs

6. Types of temperate forests

7. Ecology of coniferous forests: location, climate, characteristics, life forms and adaptations

8. Relationship between conifers and fungi

9. Relationship between voles and owls

10. Characteristics of broad-leaved deciduous trees

11. Ecology of temperate deciduous broad-leaved forest: locations, characteristics, life forms and adaptations

12. Effects of fire on forests

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TREES In forest communities, trees dominate the vegetation. There are many different kinds of trees, of course, and we can look at these in several ways. One way is to look at their growth habits. For instance, some trees are deciduous and others are evergreen. Deciduous trees lose all their leaves for part of the year, usually during the winter. Evergreen trees always have leaves. They lose leaves, but only a few at a time. Another way is to look at their evolutionary relationships. In this respect, trees fall into two main groups: the conifers and the broad-leaved flowering trees.

Conifers are cone-bearing trees. Their seeds develop inside cones instead of flowers. (Even though Attenborough uses the term "flower" to describe the cones, this is incorrect.) The reproductive cycle of a typical conifer, such as a pine tree, takes two years to complete. During the first year, both male and female cones are produced. The male cones are very small and are grouped together in clusters. They produce enormous amounts of pollen. The female cones are larger than the male cones, but still smaller than mature female cones. They are soft, and the eggs are located within the cone, between the scales.

The male cones release their pollen, which is carried by the wind to the female cones. Since the pine relies on the wind to spread its pollen, the male cones produce abundant pollen. Most of the pollen never reaches a female cone. The wind carries it everywhere (including our noses) instead of directly and efficiently to the female cones. The male cones must make enormous amounts of pollen to be sure some of it will reach a female cone.

The scales of the female cone have separated just enough to allow pollen to fall between the scales. When the wind-blown pollen reaches a female cone, the pollen grains fall between the scales and reach the ovules of the female cone, where the eggs are located. After pollination, the female cone closes up. So ends the first year.

During the second year, the pollen grains eat away at the ovule tissue until they reach the eggs. Then the pollen produces sperm that fuse with the eggs to form zygotes, cells that will divide to form the embryos inside the seeds. The ovules develops into seeds, and the female cones grow and mature until they are as large as the familiar pine cones used as decorations during the winter holidays.

Conifers are usually evergreens that have leaves shaped like needles. The shape and structure of the needles are adaptations for dry conditions. The long thin shape of the needles decreases the amount of surface from which water can evaporate. (Note: this also means there is less leaf surface for light, which decreases photosynthesis.) The leaves have a thick waterproof layer (called a rind in the videotape) that protects them from drying out. The leaves have holes through which gases enter and exit. These holes are sunken into pits, which reduces evaporation. As you will hear in the videotape, conifers often live in areas with long cold winters when

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water is frozen and cannot be used by the trees. So, adaptations for dry conditions, such as the structure of their leaves, help the conifers survive the winters.

Most of the conifers live in regions just south of the tundra. The summers are very short, so the plants may have as little as 90 days to grow. Because the conifers are evergreen, they do not waste time in making new leaves in the spring. Their needles can start producing food right away, allowing the conifers to maximize their growth during the short summer.

Broad-leaved trees produce their seeds inside flowers. They are much more closely related to other flowering plants, such as daisies and roses, than to conifers. Typically, their leaves are thin and broad, which means more light can strike the leaf (more photosynthesis). The reproductive cycle of a typical broad-leaved tree, such as an oak tree, is completed in a much shorter time than in conifers. Oak trees in the Austin area, for instance, produce flowers in the spring (March and April) and produce fruits (acorns) by September and October. Thus, broad-leaved trees can reproduce in a matter of months instead of years.

Although most flowering plants use animals to transfer pollen from flower to flower, most temperate broad-leaved trees rely on the wind instead. The wind- pollinated flowers of broad-leaved trees are inconspicuous with green petals. And they produce enormous amounts of pollen, just like in the conifers, and for the same reasons. Some broad-leaved trees have large, brightly colored flowers, such as peach trees and magnolias. These trees rely on bees and other animals to transfer pollen instead of the wind. The brightly colored petals of the flowers are signals used to attract the animals.

In the temperate regions of the planet where there are four distinct seasons, plants must get through the winter somehow. Here, broad-leaved trees are deciduous. As the nights get longer in autumn, biochemical changes in the tree trigger the dropping of leaves. All the recyclable parts of the leaf are removed and stored in the trunk and roots, so the green color disappears, revealing the brilliant oranges, reds, and golds of unrecyclable pigments. Eventually, the stalk that holds the leaf to the tree weakens and it separates from the tree. Why lose leaves just before winter? Water is not available during the winter months. Large amounts of water would be lost across the broad surface of the leaves. During the winter, lost water cannot be replaced by the absorption of water from the soil by the roots. So, it is better to get rid of the leaves all together.

This means that every spring, deciduous trees must produce new leaves. This is only possible in areas where the summers are long enough for leaf replacement, growth and reproduction. Broad-leaved forests are thus generally restricted to areas south of approximately 45 degrees North latitude.

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TROPHIC RELATIONSHIPS: FOOD CHAINS AND FOOD WEBS Trophic relationships are about food. To keep it simple, plants make food by photosynthesis. Since plants produce food from carbon dioxide and water, using sunlight as an energy source, plants are called producers. Any organism that utilizes the food originally produced by a producer is called a consumer.

Primary consumers eat living plants. You can also call them herbivores. Think of a cow or a deer or a rabbit or the flamingo from the Rift Valley (Unit 1). Secondary consumers eat primary consumers. Tertiary consumers eat secondary consumers. And so forth. So, what do you call a consumer who eats another consumer? You can either call them predators or carnivores.

Put these together and you get a simple, straight-line relationship of "who eats whom" called a food chain:

grass mouse snake hawk


primary consumer secondary consumer tertiary consumer

Are all trophic relationships this simple? Well, by now, your answer should be "no way." What do you do with the hawk that eats the snake but will also gladly take a nice juicy mousie for lunch? How do they fit into a food chain?

grass mouse snake


This is no longer a simple food chain, since it is not a straight-line relationship. This is the start of a food web, which maps out more complex eating relationships.

Now, let's add a new type of trophic relationship. What do you call a consumer that eats both plant material and other consumers? They are called omnivores (omni = all, vore = eater).


grass and berries mouse snake


What about an organism that eats dead plant and animal material? If the organism is eating recently killed animals, they are called scavengers. Scavengers include vultures eating road kill, lions that steal a recently killed antelope from cheetahs or gulls that harass pelicans until they drop the fish from their bill pouches.

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So, remember what we said earlier about relationships not always fitting into our categories? Look at the lion. You know from numerous TV programs that lions are predators. However, no self-respecting lion would pass up a free meal. Hence, they become scavengers when the pride runs across a meal caught by someone else who can be intimidated into leaving. (Which isn't too hard to accomplish, since lions are very big and run in gangs. What would you decide to do?)

So, what do you call an organism that breaks down long-dead plant and animal matter? It is called a decomposer, since the dead tissues will ultimately be broken down into small molecules such as carbon dioxide, nitrate and phosphates. Decomposers include fungi and bacteria. Decomposers are critical to an ecosystem because they return the nutrients that were "trapped" in the body of a plant or animal to the soil. Once in the soil, new producers can reincorporate them into living tissue or the nutrients can run off the soil into water where algae and water plants can use them.

Decomposers are usually not included in a food chain or food web based on living plants. However, many scientists often set up decomposer food webs where the dead plant and/or animal materials represent the beginning level. Decomposers fill the primary consumer slot. Then, there are other organisms that feed on the decomposers; they are the secondary consumers. Then tertiary consumers eat the secondary consumers and so forth. Since these are food webs, some consumers eat at more than one level.

CHARACTERISTICS OF TEMPERATE FOREST COMMUNITIES Temperate ecosystems are found in areas of the world that have seasons. These places are located between the tundra and the tropics. Because of their location, they experience four seasons: winter, spring, summer and fall. The climate is not cold year-round like the polar regions or hot year-round like the tropics.

One major feature of temperate forests is the presence of multiple layers of vegetation. A mature, established temperate forest usually has five layers: canopy, understory, shrub layer, ground layer and forest floor.

The tallest trees form the canopy. Their branches reach out and meet the branches of their neighbors, making a more or less uninterrupted layer that shades everything below, like a giant umbrella or tent. Beneath the canopy is a layer made up of the branches and leaves of smaller trees, the understory layer. Below the understory lies the shrub layer, made up of woody plants that are too short to qualify as trees. The shrub layer in its turn is taller than the ground layer, which consists of tender green herbs that are the shortest members of the forest community. The ground layer covers the forest floor. The floor is made of soil covered by a layer of leaf litter.

Leaf litter is composed of dead leaves from all the plants that extend above the forest floor. As the leaf litter decomposes it is turned into humus that adds texture and nutrients to the soil. The texture of the soil is important because it determines how

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much space there is between soil particles and that determines the ability of plant roots to grow and obtain oxygen. The more space there is between soil particles, the easier it is for the roots to grow deeper into the soil, and more air can get into the soil for the roots to use. (We’re talking about soil humus, not a yummy Middle Eastern dish more commonly spelled as hummus.)

The types of trees in the forest determine the nature of the soil, since they determine the nature of the leaf litter. Conifer needles make leaf litter that is acidic. The acidity of the leaves hampers decomposition, so the leaf litter builds up into a thick layer that makes it difficult for young plants to get established. The slow rate of decomposition also means that less humus is made. Because there is less humus, the soils are less rich in nutrients. Thus, these forests can support fewer species of plants and the understory, shrub and ground layer are less developed than they are in broad- leaved deciduous forests. The decomposers present in the soil are the food for many different kinds of soil invertebrates. Since coniferous forest soils have fewer decomposers, fewer soil invertebrates can live there.

In contrast, the thin leaves of broad-leaved deciduous trees are easily decomposed and do not acidify the soil. The leaf litter breaks down rapidly and a lot of humus is added to the soil. The soil is thus richer in these forests than in coniferous forests. With richer soil, more plants can grow and these forests have well-developed understory, shrub and ground layers. With many decomposers happily decomposing all that lovely leaf litter, there is an ample food supply for many different kinds of soil invertebrates.


Boreal Coniferous Forest = Taiga Most of the coniferous forests belong in this category, also called northern coniferous forests or the taiga. This type of forest is found south of the Arctic tundra throughout North America and Eurasia. The climate is always cold and is wet during the short summers, which last for only one to three months. Of all the forest types, the northern coniferous forest has the lowest diversity, and consists mostly of large, monotonous expanses of spruces and firs. According to Attenborough (Planet Earth), one-third of all of the world’s trees are in these forests. Look for this ecosystem in the video.

Montane Coniferous Forest The coniferous forests extend south from the boreal forest along the major mountain ranges, such as the Rocky Mountains in Canada and the US, and to the Alps in Europe. In these areas, the forest is called the montane coniferous forest. Below the alpine vegetation is a region that looks similar to the boreal forest, although it contains different species of spruce and fir. At lower elevations, the number of conifer and other plant species (aspen, pine) increases, so the lower montane coniferous forests are more diverse than the boreal forest. The increase in diversity is due to a

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less rigorous climate and to the longer growing season in these more southern regions.

Temperate Rain Forest Along the west coast of Alaska and British Columbia, extending down into Washington, Oregon, and northern California, is a very special kind of coniferous forest, the temperate rain forest (also called the north coast temperate coniferous forest). This region experiences high rainfall (200-300 cm per year) and cool, but rarely cold, temperatures (2-20 degrees C). This area has a lot of fog. These trees are unusual because they can absorb water directly out of the air. Because of the abundant rainfall and relatively mild climate, the trees here grow to be giants. The canopy trees are commonly 50-75 m tall. In the redwood groves of California, the trees grow to 100 m and are over 2000 years old. Look for redwoods in the video.

This region is an important timber region, and many of the oldest, grandest trees have been cut down. Still, at this time, large regions of undisturbed (old-growth) forest remain, and environmentalists and the timber industry are involved in a bitter contest over their fate. This type of forest is found nowhere else on Earth. And it would take thousands of years for a cut-over area to return to its former glory. That is too long for the unique animal species that depend on the old growth forests to survive. If the old growth forests are removed, they will go extinct. Hence, the dilemma of the spotted owl and marbled murrelets who nest in the tall old-growth trees.

Temperate Coniferous Forest Coniferous forests are not restricted to cold climates. They are also found where the soils are poor or so well-drained that water availability is a problem. For instance, the Lost Pines of Bastrop County is a stand of loblolly pines located in an area where the soil has a high sand content. The sand makes the soil drain quickly, so the soil tends to be dryer than in the neighboring prairie areas with clay-based soils. Since conifers are better adapted to dry conditions, the loblolly pines can outcompete the broad-leaved trees in this area.

Pine Savanna On the coastal plain of the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida, the vegetation consists of pine trees scattered over a wide area of grassland. The trees do not grow close enough together to form a closed canopy, and that lets in enough light for the grasses to grow luxuriously. This type of vegetation is called pine savanna. These are the forests of Florida and Georgia described in the video.

Pine savannas are maintained by fire. Broad-leaved tree seedlings are quickly destroyed by fire. But pine seedlings and grasses are protected from the fire by their structure. The growing buds of pines are protected within tufts of leaves. The growing points of the grasses are below the ground. Without fires, the broad-leaved trees would invade and eventually shade out the pines and grasses, turning this area into a deciduous forest. The fires are usually caused by lightning. What do you think the effect of humans would be on this type of vegetation? Humans tend to put out fires because fires endanger lives and dwellings. (They also tend to start them, which is

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another story.) In a pine savanna area inhabited by people, the naturally occurring fires are put out by the people, and the broad- leaved trees survive. Eventually, the pine savanna disappears.

Temperate Deciduous Forest The temperate deciduous forests of the Northern Hemisphere once covered northeastern North America, most of Europe, and northeastern China and the Korean peninsula. Both deciduous broad-leaved trees and conifers can be found in these forests, although these forests are dominated by the broad-leaved trees. The tree species that make up the greatest proportion of plants in the forest differs in different areas. For example, in the northeastern United States, the deciduous forest is dominated by maple and beech trees. To the south, the dominant trees were oak and


fungus, the chestnut blight.) To the west, the dominant trees are oak and hickory. This type of forest is what Attenborough calls the broad-leaved forest.

(Most of the chestnut trees have disappeared, wiped out by an introduced

These broad-leaved trees have larger leaves than conifers. This allows the leaves to absorb more light, which is used to produce food through photosynthesis. These thin, soft leaves are edible, so there are many more animals in these forests. These are seasonal forests, so there is the danger of frost. These trees drop their leaves during the winter months and regrow them in the spring.

Most of the deciduous forests of the world have been cut down by humans. In the United States at this time, the deciduous forest is increasing in area, as forest returns to the pastures cleared by European colonists and abandoned when their descendants moved west. In Europe and Asia, the deciduous forests are almost completely gone, and have been replaced by pastures, farmland, towns and cities.

SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PLANTS AND MYCORRHIZAL FUNGI Most plants have a symbiotic association between their roots and fungi. These associations are called mycorrhizae. Just as in the lichens, it is the combination of