The northern region of the Arctic has one of the most extreme climatic conditions on earth and yet is home to a number of species of animals. The Arctic has cold winds of very high speeds, permanent snow cover known as permafrost, very little food and water, extreme sunlight or darkness and inhospitable temperatures. The animals that live in these conditions have adapted themselves specifically to deal with these conditions and since they thrive in extreme conditions, they are called extremophiles.
Animals Found in Arctic Region
1. Polar Bear
This amazing animal is the apex predator in the Arctic and is known for its thick white fur and large size. It has many adaptations that allow it to survive in the frigid climate of the Arctic including a dense coating of hair, a layer of fat called blubber under the skin to insulate the body and large paws to enable it to walk on ice and swim for long distances. It hunts seals and other fishes using its heavy paws to break through the sheet of ice and catch the prey underneath it. Since there are long periods of scarcity of food, the fat in the polar bear’s body is utilized to sustain the animal till it can get a steady supply of food. You should also know some facts about Antarctica.
This is one of the largest land animals in the world and it too has many superb adaptations to help it survive in the Arctic. Like the polar bear, it has a layer of blubber under its skin and a leathery coating to help it dry faster. It spends a considerable amount of time underwater hunting for food. This arctic animal is very social and lives in groups of thousands of individuals. They are characterized by the two long tusks present in males and females as well as long whiskers. The tusks help them move on the ice and break to the surface to take a breath. They also have the ability to slow down their heart rate and conserve energy during extreme winters.
This underwater mammal is very reclusive and is known as the unicorn of the sea because of the single horn-like structure on its forehead. This is actually a modified tooth much like that of an elephant and is present only in the male. Narwhales live in groups of about twenty individuals and travel together in search of food. The tusk is not used for hunting but for fighting between males in order to compete for the female. You should also read about endemic animals of Galapagos Islands.
4. Arctic Fox
This tiny arctic animal lives in some of the harshest terrains in the world – the Arctic Tundra. This region has very less vegetation and the fox survives using its excellent hunting skills. It has superb hearing and can locate its prey under thick ice using the gravitational field of the earth. Because food is so scarce, it eats anything it can find including small rodents, lemmings, eggs of other birds and fish. It has a coat that changes color according to season – white in winter and brown in summer – to camouflage with the surroundings. It also listed in some of the rare color changing animals.
5. Beluga Whale
This arctic region animal is one of the smallest whales measuring up to 20 feet in length and weighing up to 1.8 tons. This whale looks very distinctive because of its white color and rounded head. They have been hunted for centuries for their meat and oil and now the population is rapidly declining. They are extremely social animals and live in groups, communicating using a wide range of sounds that are specific to each group. They travel together during the winter in search of food which mainly consists of worms and small fish. Whales are also listed under one of the smartest animals in the world.
Image Source: Wikimedia
6. Canadian Lynx
This majestic animal belongs to the cat family and is found in Canada and Northern Europe. It is specially adapted to living in the snow. It has a thick fur and long legs that enable it to walk on the snow-covered ground. It also has sharp hearing and eyesight to help catch prey which is scarcely available in the Arctic region. Like the Arctic Fox, this animal to changes the color of its fur according to the season being brown in the summer and white in winter. The Arctic hare is the Lynx’s main prey.
Image Source: Wikimedia
This large Arctic animal has inhabited the tundra for thousands of years and looks like prehistoric animals. It has two layers of fur – a long outer layer to repel the snow and a short dense inner layer to provide warmth. It uses its strong hooves to dig up the ground in search of roots, grass, and mosses which form its main food. They have large curved horns and weigh up to 370 kilos. You will also find interesting to know about wonderful Australian animals in the world.
8. Arctic Tern
This medium-sized bird is one of the longest migrating birds in the world and makes a round trip of the earth every year – migrating from the Arctic region to the Antarctic covering a distance of over 70 thousand kilometers. They breed and build nests in the Arctic and migrate to the Antarctic in the winter thus they are the animals that see the most sunlight. They also shed their feathers – called moulting – and may temporarily become flightless. If we consider shades and color, it is one of the most beautiful birds around the world.
9. Snowy Owl
This large Arctic bird lives in extremely cold climates and is an excellent hunter. The male has mainly white feathers on its body with spotted wings while the female is dusky brown in colour. They have bright yellow eyes and a black hooked beak. They have serrated wings, sharp claws and superb eyesight to help spot and kill prey. They mainly feed on lemmings, rodents and small birds. They breed in the Arctic itself building nests on small raised mounds with snow and some vegetation to protect from the arctic winds. Barn owl is one of the most beautiful nocturnal animals in the world.
10. Arctic Hare
This arctic region animal lives in areas where the Snowy Owl and Arctic Fox are found and it too has similar adaptations. It has a thick fur that changes colour according to season – white in the winters and dull gray in summers to blend with the surroundings. They may weigh up to 7 kilos and are larger than average rabbits. They have long legs add large paws to help them walk in the snow. They can also run at speed of up to 40 miles an hour when trying to outrun predators. They live in large groups and huddle together to keep warm. It is one of the most beautiful animals found in Arctic region.
Given the harsh weather conditions and lack of food, it is a miracle that these animals can survive comfortably in such conditions. These arctic region animals are truly wonders of nature.