| Can animals survive if moved to a different
|Question Date: 2016-12-09|
Thanks for the interesting question!
Animals, like all organisms, are a product of
evolution by natural selection. This means that
each organism possesses traits called
adaptations that enhance its fitness, or its
ability to survive and reproduce. You bring up
an important point: if the environment
dramatically changes, an organism may no longer be
designed to best exploit its ecosystem. On the
other hand, there are situations which a species
moving into a new ecosystem is massively
successful, so much that it damages the ecosystem.
We can go over both cases.
Often, changing the ecosystem of an organism is
fatal. For a dramatic example let’s consider the
earth around two billion years ago. The earth back
then was a very different place. In fact, oxygen
was very rare and toxic to most of the lifeforms
that existed at this time. One organism, called
cyanobacteria, was responsible for changing
the ecosystem of almost every other species. This
happened because it evolved the ability to turn
sunlight and carbon dioxide into energy, a process
we call photosynthesis. As a side effect,
however, this process also produced lots of oxygen
– leading to the mass extinction of most of the
life on earth at the time. So moving an animal
into a different ecosystem can mean that it is not
designed to survive, which can be fatal to whole
Other times, however, an animal moving into a new
environment is more destructive to the existing
ecosystem than the ecosystem is to the newly
introduced animal. Newly arrived animals which
damage preexisting ecosystems are called
invasive species. The transport of animals
around the world by humans makes invasive species
a major threat to the environment of native plants
and animals. For example, the brown trout, which
is native to England, was introduced to rivers in
California, resulting in the loss of many native
fishes. Invasive species from other ecosystems
can severely alter and reduce the biodiversity of
local ecosystems. They survive too well and
hurt the native species.
Thanks for the great question!
Animals can survive if they're moved to a
different ecosystem that isn't too too different.
Obviously, animals would all die in an ecosystem
without any oxygen. Luckily, there's no such
ecosystem on Earth. Animals will survive
better if the ecosystem changes gradually, without
a sudden big change.
Luckily, ecosystems usually change gradually,
unless there's a big storm or something that kills
off some of the kinds of living things. If
there's a big storm that kills off lots of corals
in a coral reef, for example, the corals will
gradually grow back. But now we're worried that
the ecosystem for a lot of corals has been
changing too much. For example, parts of the
ocean have more acid, and that seems to be hurting
the corals in those parts of the ocean.
When animals are moved to a different ecosystem,
they are called an introduced species.
Usually when an animal is introduced to a new
ecosystem, it has no predators in that new
ecosystem. This allows the animal to grow its
population because no predator is consuming it.
Most animals that are moved to a different
ecosystem are able to rapidly grow their
population! For example, the lionfish is from the
Pacific Ocean but was moved to the Atlantic Ocean
in the 2000s. It started with a 6-8 lionfish, but
has spread to nearly 1,000 fish per acre in the
Caribbean. The lionfish has no natural predators
in the Caribbean, so only humans remove it from
Many animals would not survive if moved to a
different ecosystem. Animals are specifically
adapted to their environment and when moved to a
different environment they could face an entirely
new set of challenges for survival like a
different source of food or different predators.
Can you think of an example? Let’s say we
tree frog from the rain forest into the desert;
the poor tree from would likely dry out instantly
and not have any insects to eat! What if we moved
a desert tortoise to the rainforest… maybe it
would do alright because it’d have lots of plants
to eat, but it may have trouble with the greater
number of potential predators. Good question!
That depends on the animals being moved, the
ecosystem that they are being moved to, and the
method by which they are being moved. The answer
is usually 'no' without some extra help in
surviving, but in some cases they survive too well
and wind up destroying the ecosystem they are
moved to by exploiting it to death.
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