Introduction - Arctic AnimalsAnimals that live in the Arctic have adapted to living in one of the harshest climates on the planet. The extremely cold weather makes survival a challenge. On this page is a list of interesting facts about arctic animals, written for kids and adults. Information on this page and in this section of our site includes how animals have adapted to life in the arctic and what animals live in the Arctic.
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The Arctic and Arctic ConditionsBefore listing the animals that live in the arctic and their various adaptations we list here some facts about where the arctic is and the conditions that exist there.
- The Arctic is located around the North Pole and is generally divided into two zones; the High Arctic Zone which is closest to the North Pole and the Low Arctic Zone a little further south. Northern regions of North America, Europe, and Asia are in the arctic.
- The High Arctic Zone is extremely cold, the average temperature in January and February is -34 degrees Celsius (-29 degrees Fahrenheit) and can fall well below that. This freezing cold climate supports very little animal or plant life. The Low Arctic Zone is slightly warmer than the High Arctic Zone and supports more life.
- Besides the extreme cold animals that live in the arctic must cope with long periods of darkness in the winter months and long periods of light in the summer.
- Most arctic soil is frozen all year round or for most of the year.
- Arctic air is very dry; an interesting fact is that in some areas of the arctic the air is as dry as the air in the Sahara desert.
Arctic Animal Adaptation Facts
- Some animals, such as the arctic ground squirrel, survive the cold season of the arctic by hibernating. Hibernation is a sleep-like state where the animals heartbeat slows down. Animals that hibernate have to find a safe shelter for their deep sleep; often underground burrows are used.
- Many arctic animals, like the Arctic Wolf, have thick fur coats to help protect them from the cold. Many of these animal's fur coats actually get thicker in the colder months.
- The color of many arctic animals fur changes to white during the winter months which provides them with camouflage in the snow. One example of an animal whose fur changes color is the Arctic Fox.
- Many animals, like the Arctic tern, migrate to warmer regions during the Arctic's coldest months and return when it gets warmer.
- Numerous bird species migrate south for the winter and return to the arctic by the thousands to feed and nest when the weather gets warmer. However a few species of birds, including the snowy owl, ptarmigan, and raven, stay in the Arctic for the whole year.
- Several arctic animals, like whales and Walruses, have a very thick layer of blubber beneath their skin which helps keep them warm.
- Beluga Whales have developed strong foreheads which they use to ram into and break the ice from below in order to get to the surface for air.
- Many animals of the arctic region have developed different characteristics from their southern cousins. For example, to help reduce heat loss, Arctic Wolves are smaller, have shorter muzzles and shorter legs than wolves that live in warmer regions.
- Besides the physical adaptations animals have developed for survival in the harsh arctic climate they have also developed strategies for survival. For example Polar Bears will catch and eat a lot of food between late April and mid-July in order to gain fat. They do this so that they can live off these fat reserves when their food becomes scarcer.
Arctic Animals ListBelow is a list of just a few of the animals that can be found in the arctic.
- Polar Bear
- Musk Ox
- Arctic Wolf
- Arctic Fox
- Brown Lemming
- Collared Lemming
- Arctic Hare
- Arctic Ground Squirrel
- Snowy Owl
- Belugas Whale
- Bowhead Whale
- Harp Seal
- Willow Ptarmigan
- Rock Ptarmigan
- Snow Goose
- Tundra Swan