- How do animals survive in the grasslands? (An Overview)
- What are the types of grasslands?
- So, How do animals adapt to the grassland biome for survival? (Explained with examples)
- What do animals in the grasslands eat?
- Why can many animals survive in the grassland habitat?
How do animals survive in the grasslands? (An Overview)
Those ecosystem where there are large open areas of grass are called grasslands or grassland biomes. Trees are infrequently present in such biome and the whole area is covered by grasses mostly.
The grasslands are those areas where the climate is characterized by low rainfall, and grazing by animals that maintains the ideal for the growth of grasses only.
So, the animals that survive are in the grasslands have well adapted themselves to grazing and feeding on the grass and shrubs that grows there.
They are well adapted to drinking only a little amount of water that is available for them as grassland biomes are characterized by low annual rainfall.
They are also adapted to survive by tolerating both hot and cold kind of climate every year. As the summers are very hot while the winters can be freezing cold.
The spring season in the grasslands is very mild and is considered a perfect season. The late springtime just before the summer season starts is the time that flourishes the grasslands by over half of the year’s rainfall.
The majority of the big animals like big cats, wild dogs, etc. are seen to make their shelter amidst the bushes, up the in the trees, or dens.
While the small animals like rabbits, mice, ground squirrels stay in their burrows hidden amidst the short grasses or shurbs.
Many grazing animals have developed digestive systems that enable them to survive on grasses. Smaller animals in the grasslands hide easily in the grasses.
Many of the grassland animals like lions, elephants, hyenas, rabbits, etc. are both nocturnal and diurnal, and those like the big cats are best nocturnal creatures than being diurnal.
Many grassland animals are nocturnal which means they are only active at night can hide from predators during the day. Thus, adding more chances to their survival.
Almost all of the grassland animals are better able to ran fast enabling them to quickly run away from danger, most probably from their predators. Example: Antelope, Zebras, Buffaloes, etc.
While many of the animals can ran superfast, like of the big cats like lions, leopards, etc. to run after their prey and kill them for food.
Well, there are a lot of adaptations and survival strategies that they do follow, that widely varies from species to species. All of these help the animals survive in the grasslands.
Before reading further, it is very important that you go through this sub-section of the post and understand the types of grasslands present on Earth.
What are the types of grasslands?
There are two main type of grasslands or grassland ecosystem. These are: Temperate grassland and Tropical Grassland.
Tropical grasslands are characterized by dry and wet seasons that remain warm and hot all throughout the year. Rainfall does occur mostly during the later spring season ranging between 90-150 centimeters level per year.
It is to be noted that the tropical grasslands not only have grasses but comprise a mixture of trees and grasses. The availability of trees to grass ratio in the particular tropical grassland area varies directly with the rainfall and soil moisture.
Temperate grasslands are characterized by having a larger temperature fluctuation during the year. Meaning that the winters are freezing cold while summers are very hot.
Temperate grasslands receive very less annual rainfall as compared to tropical grasslands with an average of 20 – 35 inches of rainfall a year.
In tropical grasslands, the summer season is the growing season when the grasses grow very well. While the freezing cold winter season is the dormant season when no grass or crops grow due to the cold.
The Tropical grasslands are found closer to the equator where it is warm. Temperate grasslands are found further north or south of the equator, mostly just north or south of the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn.
Examples of Temperate grasslands include Eurasian steppes, North American prairies, and Argentine pampas.
Examples of Tropical grasslands include the hot savannas of sub-Saharan Africa and northern Australia. Most notable of the tropical grasslands is the African Savanna.
What are the grasslands called in different places?
- In Africa, the grasslands are called a Savanna or Veld.
- In Europe, the grasslands are called Steppe.
- In North America, the grasslands are called the Plains or Prairie.
- In South America, the grasslands are called Pampa.
- In Australia, the grasslands are called Australian rangelands.
- In other parts of South America, the grasslands are called Lianos or Cerrados.
Other types of grasslands can also occur in the regions of tropical or temperate grasslands. The main grasslands are Tropical & Temperate Grasslands. There are alos many different subcategories of grasslands.
The other subtypes/subcategories of Grasslands are:
- Flooded grasslands like the Everglades of Florida, the Pantanal of Brazil, etc. that occur mostly in subtropical and tropical climates.
- Montane or Moutain grasslands like the high-altitude grasslands located on high mountain ranges around the world like the Páramo of the Andes Mountains and many more.
- Xeric or Desert grasslands like the eastern borders of the Sonoran desert are composed of sparse grassland ecoregions located in the border regions of the deserts.
- Polar or Tundra grasslands occur in high to sub-Arctic regions. These grasslands consist mainly of shrubs and have a very short growing season. These grasslands are located in the parts of Alaska, Canada, Russia, Greenland, Iceland, and Scandinavia.
So, How do animals adapt to the grassland biome for survival? (Explained with examples)
1. They can camouflage
Camouflage is the morphological property of many animals to hide and conceal themselves, most probably from their prey.
Their body colouration and visualization looks pretty much the same as that of the surroundings.
Just take the example of grassland rabbits, gazelles, cattle, and antelopes. Many of the species can hide very well amidst the tall grasses, thus keeping themselves hidden away from the predators.
Also take the example of big cats like lions and leopards, that also do the say in order to hide from their prey and give a surprise attack. The body colours of these big cats match with the brown-gray colour of the Savanna grasslands and the surroundings.
Grazing mammals most probably are seen with black and white, brown and white, or black and brown outer skin and fur colour as a means to stay hidden on the open landscape.
2. Many are social animals
Yes, almost a majority of the grassland animals are social creatures, meaning that they stay and roam in groups, and also defend each other in groups.
Just like take the example of Wild Dogs, Lions, Hyenas, etc. of Africa. They all social creatures and all of them work in proper co-operation and co-ordination to hunt and kill their prey.
Also take the example of the grazing animals like buffaloes, zebras, antelopes, beasts, etc. that roam around and feed in social groups. This gives them the advantage in numbers to defend themselves from predators.
Some species like Gazelles, Impalas, Antelopes gaze, drink, and sleep together in their social groups. This increases their chances of detecting a predator and alert the rest of the group members.
3. The way the mother nourishes her young ones
The grassland biomes can be very deadly and dangerous for the young ones who doesn’t even know to defend themselves.
That’s for why to continue their generations all of the animals have adapted themselves of taking care of the young ones in a variety of mechanism.
Just for instance, it has been seen that the mother always keep her young ones with her and defend them vigorously from predators. Also, when she goes for hunting, she hides them in somewhere safe places. This can be seen in Leopards, Cheetah, etc.
In social creatures like Lion, Wild Dogs, Hyenas, etc. not only the mother but the other male and females too show their responsibility of taking care of their group’s young ones.
In lions you will see that, at about three months the lions cubs are being taught the art of hunting by their moms. She teaches her the tactics to become self-hunters and how to fight for their food.
4. They can run very fast
Yes, almost all of the animals from predators to prey of the grassland biomes can run very fast. In the case of predator-prey relationship the one who runs fast defends themselves very well.
The grazing animals like impalas, antelopes, gazelles, zebras, rabbits, etc. all have adapted themselves with tall legs to run fast from their predators.
The big cats like cheetah, lions, leopards, tigers, etc. have well adapted themselves with powerful hindlimbs packed with deadly forelimbs to run fast, grab, and hunt their prey well.
The heavy bodies animals like horses and buffaloes can ran very well to. The African elephants are like running army tanks that can defend themselves very well if they sense a danger.
5. Small animals show burrowing behaviour
As already mentioned that the grassland biomes lack the presence of frequent trees.
So, as lacking the protection of trees, animals living in grasslands must be able to cope up with extreme weather and temperatures that accompany their exposed habitat.
So, many have adapted to living hidden amidst the bushes and grasses and also by digging tunnels and by burrowing underground.
Just take the example of rodents like mice, rabbits, hares, and prairie dogs. They dig burrows and tunnels underground that help them hide and stay amidst the underground tunnel networks, with multiple entrances and exits.
Others like Porcupines also do the same. They stay in underground burrows combined to form complex tunnel networks with multiple entrances and exits.
Also take the example of Hyenas. Spotted Hyena dens and burrows can have more than a dozen entrances, and are mostly located on flat ground.
6. They have got great feeding adaptations
Unlike the rainforests with a huge and wide variety of food availability, the grassland ecosystem only harbors a limited type and variety of foods.
Grasslands offer a limited diet for both plant-eating and animal-eating animals. The large plant-eating animals feed on grasses and shrubs, while the large animal-eating animals feed on those animals that are plant-eating.
For smaller animals like rodents, mice, etc. there are also seeds, shrubs, weeds, or flowers that may be eaten.
Just the small animals like rabbits can collect many seeds and food varieties all at once in their small pouch-like cheeks and then go and keep them in their burrows as a future storehouse of food. They typically feed on these stored food during the winter season when they don’t come out of their burrows.
Another like the antelopes and impalas have adapted themselves in having many chambered stomach with millions of bacteria and strong kind of digestive enzymes to digest the grasses and get the nutrition they required from it. So, that’s how they have adapted to feeding on grasses only.
Also, many like the buffaloes, zebras, horses, etc. like the impalas also have developed a digestive system that relies upon more than one stomach chambers to complete the digestive process. That’s how they are adapted to feed on grasses only.
7. Predator’s ability to hunt for prey
The predators like the lions, tigers, leopards, etc. are well-adapted to killing and hunting their prey.
They do so and as a result, they keep a check on the increasing population of the prey. That’s the predator-prey relationship.
The most famous grassland predators are the big cats like lions, tigers, leopards, etc. They have powerful hind limbs to run fast and jump high. They have deadly claws in their forelimbs and bone breaking powerful jaws in their mouth to hunt and kill their prey.
Others like the Striped Hyena and wild dogs can hear sounds and smell of their prey from 1 mile away.
They are also scavengers and so can smell rotten meat from kilometers away and can come to eat it.
Lions are able to kill big animals like buffaloes and zebras and feed on them in groups.
Leopards are able to hunt medium-sized animals like impalas and carry them to the top of a tree to feed on it and save the prey from other big cats.
8. Preys’ ability to safeguard themselves from predators
The preys’ ability to safeguard themselves from predators is also another way to keep a population check for both the prey and predator in the predator-prey relationship of the grassland biome.
The first adaptation is that the prey like impalas, zebras, antelopes, etc. can run very fast and safe themselves from predators.
Other like the elephants are very large, giraffes are very tall, and buffaloes and hippopotamus are very huge animals that help them safeguard themselves from the predators due to their size, physical strength, and stature.
Other like the nocturnal animals like rabbits, rodents, etc. stay hidden in the burrows during the day time and only come out at the night time to eat. Thus, safeguarding themselves from potential predators.
What do animals in the grasslands eat?
Famous examples of grassland animals include Mice, Prairie Dogs, Bison, Zebras, Elephants, Giraffes, Lion, Hyena, Wild dogs, Warthog, Ostrich, Bumble Bees, Coyotes, Elk, Kangaroos.
Grasslands mice are omnivores in nature, meaning that they can eat both plants and meat. They are seen feeding on seeds, flowers, grasses, shrubs, fruits, berries, underground fungus, and various insects such as beetles and grasshoppers.
Other rodents like rabbits mostly feed on fruits, seeds, groundnuts, roots, grasses, shrubs, and flowers.
The Prairie dog eats a simple vegetarian diet of pellets, fresh hay, grasses, cactus, fresh fruits and vegetables, seeds and nuts, and freshwater.
Bison, Zebra, Horses, Buffaloes, Impalas, etc. are ruminents and they feed on grases and dry or fresh hay.
Elephants and Giraffes feed on tall grasses, bushes, fruits, tree leaves, bark, shrubs, and vines.
Lion, Hyena, Wild Dogs, and other big cats feed on the meat of plant-eating animals. Some are even known eating each other like lions sometimes eating her own cubs.
Hyenas can also eat on badly rotten meat as they are scavengers.
Warthogs primarily feed on grass stems, roots, and seeds. Insects like Bumblebees eat nectar and pollen grains of flowers.
Ostrich primarily feed on roots, leaves, grasses, and seeds. Sometimes they consume insects, snakes, lizards, and rodents too.
Coyotes are all omniovores that are oppurtunistic eaters and can eat anything from mice, rabbits and squirrels to frogs, lizards, fish, fruit and carrion.
Elk and Kangaroos are all herbivores and can feed on grasses, tree leaves, shrubs, and fresh hay.
Why can many animals survive in the grassland habitat?
Animals are able to survive in the grassland habitat because they have well-adapted themselves to be so.
Some can hibernate, some aestivate, some are nocturnal, some can camouflage very well, some are deadly predators, and some can survive with the little available water they do have in order to survive.
In tropical grasslands, animals are well-adapted to a warm environment all throughout the year. They have digestive systems especially adapted to feed on grasses, while some with physical adaptations like pawed front legs to dig burrows and stay there.
The tropical grassland animals show adaptations like camouflage, and they are also able to find ways to shelter and protect themselves from danger by hiding and staying amidst the grasses and bushes only.
The majority of tropical grassland animals are social creatures and stay in groups having strength in numbers to find food, gaze, roam, and defend themselves.
In temperature grasslands, animals are well-adapted to only staying active during the summertime of the year when the grasses grow well. During the dormant freezing cold season, most of them enter into a hibernation phase.
Those animals of the temperate grasslands, that stay active throughout the year have well-adapted to changing seasons like they are able to cope with freezing cold winters and extremely hot summers.
Some animals of the temperature grasslands, hibernate or migrate during the winter season to escape the cold and to avoid the food scare situation.
The animals of Flooded grasslands like the Big cats like Tigers, etc. living there knows how to swim and avoid the flood.
The animals of the Mountain grasslands have adapted physically by making themselves able to navigate the rocky, steep, jagged terrain with specialized hooves (the horny part of the foot) allowing them to climb steep hills and rocks.
The animals of the Desert grasslands are able to store a huge amount of fats in their body and they mostly feed on succulents plant like cactus to fulfill their water requirements.
Animals in the Tundra Grassland need shelter and insulation to maintain homeostasis and their internal body temperature in equilibrium and so they tend to have thicker and warmer feathers and fur.
A many of the Tundra Grassland animals have larger bodies and shorter arms, legs, and tails which help them retain their body heat better and prevent heat loss.
So, overall reading this you can have an idea that why can many animals survive in the grasslands by perfectly adapting themselves to their type of habitat.