Human Ecological Adaptations – Geography UPSC

In this article, You will read Human Ecological Adaptations – for Geography UPSC (Geography Optional Notes).

Ecology is the scientific study of the interrelationship between all the Abiotic and Biotic Components of Environments. All the Plants and Animals live their life according to their Abiotic environment, In other words, Plants and Animals live their life in accordance with the Topographic, Edaphic, Climate, and Hydrosphere.

Human Ecology is an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary study of the relationship between humans and their natural, social, and built environments. In order to survive, all societies have to adapt to the opportunities and constraints that their environment presents for them, given their current culture. Successful adaptation can be said to have occurred when all of a society’s important values are able to be achieved over the long term.

Because of the fact that humans live in a greater variety of habitats than any other species, it‘s natural to ask how humans adapt to these varied environments. Human adaption involves both biological and behavioral mechanisms. Human behavioral ability to modify the environment is the major factor that has allowed us to occupy the diverse ecosystems that we do. In fact, many of the biological adaptations that we see in humans are adaptations to environmental conditions we ourselves have produced.

Human Ecological Adaptations


Human beings like any other species on the earth are exposed to changes in Environmental conditions many of which are natural and other man-made. Like other animals survival and success depend upon the ability of humans to tolerate and move over to new conditions and change, Such ability of humans to tolerate and tide over new conditions and to adjust to the shifting condition in their environment is called adaptation.

Biological adaptation

Human beings are different from the other species by the fact that they are spread over most part of the land surface that is from equatorial to polar regions and they have also learned to tolerate extreme conditions such as The high pressure after deep sea and the zero gravity of the space.

 Surprisingly human are not the ideal species to study in order to understand the range of biological adaptation despite their obvious success in dominant species of the earth this is attributed to their higher Intellectual capacity which enables them to adjust their behavior over the environmental conditions thus they tend to exhibit more cultural adjustment than biological adaptation 

Nevertheless, there are instances of physical and biological variation in the human population exposed to different climate conditions in various Geographic locations.

Cultural Adoptions

Organisms encounter new events that provide new changes; survival of the population may depend upon their ability to occupy new environments and humans have proved to be very successful in it.

 Any new environment brings in new stresses related to the environment to which the organism is exposed. For instance, lack of oxygen is environmental stress at high altitudes or similarly, a desert may produce water and heat stress.

Each of these environmental stresses in turn will produce physical strain in the organism.

For example, environmental stress at high altitude will produce strain in the respiratory and circulatory system of the organism.

Every strength prompt the body to adopt in multiple ways thus adoption are brought about by the strain on the organism Which in turn are caused by environmental stress.

A few organisms including humans use a strategy that minimizes the need for adoption. The alternate for adoption is the creation of a microenvironment in which the environmental stress itself is minimized or eliminated. Here the organism creates around itself a layer of protective microenvironment which may be communal like the Eskimos Suit. Creating a microenvironment is usually achieved by changing a micro-environment is usually achieved by changing the natural behavior of the organism and is also referred to as Cultural Adoptions.

Major Factors of Adaptions

The key elements that lead to many variations in the physical and chemical conditions of different habitats are –

  • temperature, water, light, and soil (abiotic) and also
  • pathogens, parasites, predators, and competitors – of the organism with which they interact constantly (biotic components).

Levels of Adaptions

Adaptations can occur at a variety of levels ranging from Genetic to Cultural levels i.e. –

  1. Genetic level
  2. Physiological level
  3. Growth and development level
  4. Cultural level

Genetic adaptations are the changes in the genetic makeup of populations that come about over generations as a result of natural selection. Genetic adaptations are fairly permanent adaptations.

There are also less permanent types of adaptations.

Acclimatization’s are changes that come about during the life time of the individual in response to particular environmental stresses. Although the ability to undergo acclimatization has a genetic basis, the actual response does not occur unless the individual experiences the environmental stress. Tanning in response to ultraviolet radiation is a good example of acclimatization.

Developmental adaptations (or Developmental acclimatization) are changes that occur in response to an environmental stress during the period of growth. Because the developmental adaptations usually change the way that some part of the body grows or develops, they are generally more permanent than acclimatization. Adaptation to high latitude involves the developmental adaptation.

Humans exhibit a number of biological adaptations to the great variety of environments they occupy. The best example of human genetic adaptation to climate is skin color, which likely evolved as an adaptation to ultraviolet radiation. Variation among populations in body size and shape also may at least partially relate to adaptation to climate.

One of the most important influences on human adaptation is our ability to modify the environment. This modification both reduces our exposure to the physical environment and creates a new environmental condition to which we must adapt. Human modification of the environment has altered our diet and the diseases we get.

We see genetic adaptation to the changes, but also failure to adapt. Several of the chronic diseases that are so frequent in industrialized countries may result from the fact that we are consuming diets to which we are not biologically adapted. Our behavioral flexibility and our ability to modify the environment lessen our need for biological adaptations.

Many of the biological characteristics of living organisms evolved during time periods when our technology was much less sophisticated than it is today. Biological characteristics that were limitations under past conditions are frequently not limitations today. Conversely, traits that were advantageous in past environments may be detrimental today.

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