Friday, May 16, 2014

Adaptation and Maladaptation

by Antonio C. Antonio
May 16, 2014

This is an awesome image of mountain-climbing goats in Colorado, USA.  These goats scale steep mountain slopes for fresh food… grass and vegetation on top of the mountain.  Given the peculiar topography of their immediate environment, these goats are adapting to the landscape.

This is called “adaptation” which actually has several meanings depending on the usage and context:
  • As a noun, it means: (1) the act of adapting; (2) the state of being adapted or an adjustment; (3) something produced by adapting (such as an adaptation of a stage play for television);
  • In Biology, it means: (1) any alteration in the structure or function of an organism or any of its parts that results from natural selection and by which the organism becomes better fitted to survive and multiply in its environment; (2) a form or structure modified to fit a changed environment; and, (3) the ability of a species to survive in a particular ecological niche, especially because of alterations of form or behaviour brought about through natural selection process; and,
  • In Physiology, it means the decrease in response of sensory receptor organs, as those of vision, touch, temperature, olfaction and audition which results to changes when constantly applied to environmental conditions.
Opposed to adaptation is maladaptation.  This is also in a sense a form of adaptation although the adjustment is on the negative or non-ideal way.  A good example of this is when a good person, wrongly accused and sentenced to jail, is included in a cell with hardened criminals.  Most likely, this person will integrate and start acting like a tough guy too in his bid to survive and not be dominated or enslaved by the other inmates.  Edgar Rice Burroughs’ character “Tarzan” was accidentally left in the jungle in his infantile stage and was adopted and reared by apes.  Eventually, Tarzan grew up acting and communicating like an ape.

The need to adapt is directly related to the need to survive.  A maladaptation is a trait more harmful than helpful.  In both humans and animals, it applies to behavior learned as a survival mechanism.  However, these adaptive means, resulting to maladaptation, are not within accepted norms of behavior within specific societies.

Just my little thoughts…

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