List of Animals in the Arctic
The North Pole—often referred to as the Arctic—is a permanently snow-clad area at the northernmost end of the Earth. This extremely cold region comprises of a vast array of life forms ranging from microscopic zoo planktons to gigantic whales. The animal and plant life found here is well-adapted to the extreme conditions of this area. Nature has endowed them with fur, fat or feathers to adapt and cope up with the extremely harsh environment.
Over 400 species of fish, 20 species of mammals and 100 species of birds call North Pole home. Contrary to popular misconception, there are no cute looking penguins at the North Pole.
1. Polar Bears
- Polar bears are the dominant land animal on the Arctic ice. Polar bears often feed on seals, which are mammals that live in both in water and on land. Polar bears hang out around the North Pole, but a lot of their time is spent in the water where they hunt the fish that live under the ice. Polar bears are the world’s largest land meat-eating animal.
- They are also the largest of the bear family. They are well adapted to the cold Arctic ice and snow. It is most likely for Arctic trekkers to encounter polar bears on their journeys because the bears are inquisitive by nature and attracted by human food.
- Polar bears are gradually seeking out more and more humans, especially the Inuit who live in the area, because the bears’ hunting season is progressively shortening due to the melting polar ice.
- So, the bears have to search for food in new regions that are often occupied by humans. Polar bear hide is very useful. It can be used as clothing, rugs, and blankets. The hollow guard hairs of the fur of the polar bear are sold for fly tying. Polar bear meat can also be eaten. As the North Pole is getting warmer, polar bears and other animals are facing the danger of extinction.
2. Arctic Fox
- The arctic fox has a snowy white fur during winters which works as a camouflage against likely predators. In the summer, the coat of the arctic fox sheds its white coat for a grayish-brown one that matches the surroundings, that is, the white-brown tundra areas after the snow has melted off. The process of the change back to the winter coat starts in September and October and is completed by November.
- Foxes of the blue colouring remain dark or charcoal coloured all year but become a little lighter in winter. While their thick fur provides insulation against the cold climate, their comparatively small ears help in decreasing heat loss. They survive by feeding on smaller mammals and fish, and sometimes on birds and eggs that they come across during hunting sprees. Arctic foxes walk on the snow-covered surface listening carefully for the small creatures under the snow.
- On hearing one, they jump up and down in an attempt to break through the snow using their front paws. Once they succeed in breaking the snow, the prey is theirs.
- The Caribou is a member of the deer family. Caribous live in herds and are always on the move – either because of the flies that keep constantly troubling them or in search of food sources. They are fond of eating moss and lazing around in the shade. Caribous eat Mushrooms and lichen in winter and also have hollow hairs that have their roots in a thick layer of fat and help in conserving heat.
- During the 1800s, Caribous’ population dropped intensely because of over hunting for their invaluable fur. Ever since the laws were passed for their protection, once again, we ceasily spot large herds of Caribou in the Arctic region.
- Lemming is a tiny rodent that burrows and lives in extensive snow burrows.
- A pair of lemmings can have up to ten babies in one litter.
- The young ones get ready to reproduce just after one month and they can have up to three litters per year. If all the young ones of lemmings live and breed, they would be ruling the world.
- Thankfully, Arctic predators, illnesses and lack of plant food are all factors that work together to keep a check on the lemming population.
- The Eskimos use the lemming fur to make garments and doll clothing.
5. Dall Sheep
- Dall sheep is another popular resident of the North Pole.
- Dall sheep have magnificent curling horns that take up to 8 years to grow.
- These horns are composed of keratin, the same material that our fingernails are made up of.
- We can calculate the age of the sheep from the number of growth rings on their horns.
- Dall sheep have hollow hair which protect their body from the severe cold.
- Dall sheep are herbivores and eat small plants and moss.
- Local residents and hunters hunt Dall sheep for its meat.
- Today Dall sheep are facing extinction due to dearth of food sources and over hunting and their population is now being monitored by the scientists.
- The wolverine is a medium sized mammal that is known to be an extremely strong and powerful beast. In the summers, the wolverine usually feeds on birds, eggs, rats, mice and other small mammals and when the snow envelops the ground in winters, they switch to hunting larger animals such as reindeer (caribou) and sheep.
- The wolverine has large teeth and powerful jaws that it uses to crush big bones and eat the frozen meat of the prey. These animals have a strong-smelling fluid called musk which they use to warn others to stay away.
- Wolverines also have a thick coat of brown fur that protects them from the freezing cold temperatures.
7. Arctic Hare
- The Arctic hare is an important component in the Arctic circle food chain and it is one of the most common preys for bigger animals of the Arctic tundra such as Arctic wolves, foxes and polar bears. Arctic hare turns blue-grey colour during the summers but is known to keep its white tail all year.
- The Arctic hare has thick, white fur which provides both warmth and camouflage and enables it to continue living in the harsh conditions of the Arctic regions. The Arctic hare eats berries, shoots and buds found in the snow.
- They have long claws that help them to dig through the frozen ground. Arctic hares prefer to live in large groups because staying togethe also helps them to survive the harsh climatic conditions.
- How? These clever hares remain huddled together most of the time to conserve heat and to keep themselves warm.
- Smart, aren’t they?
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