101 Facts – Polar Animals

Polar bear and cubs by Karilop311

101 Facts… Polar Animals! by IP Factly

101 polar animal facts

Over 101 amazing facts about these tough and highly adapted animals.


What Are the Earth’s Poles?
Life in the Polar Regions
Keeping Warm
Finding Food
Other Adaptations
Antarctic Animals – Birds
Antarctic Animals – Fish & Other Sea Creatures
Antarctic Animals – Insects
Antarctic Animals – Mammals
Arctic Animals – Birds
Arctic Animals – Fish & Other Sea Animals
Arctic Animals – Insects
Arctic Animals -Mammals
Video Page
Photo Credits


Most animals cannot survive in the world’s polar regions. Those that live there, however, have found ways to evolve and adapt to the harsh climate. Some have adapted so well, in fact, that they cannot live anywhere else in the world. These polar animals are experts in survival, finding fascinating ways to overcome the challenges of nature time after time.


Open Polar Sea Ice by Moving Mountains Trust

What Are the Earth’s Poles?

Every day, the Earth rotates around its axis, which is like an invisible pole. This rotation is what causes day and night. The places on the surface of the Earth where the ends of this invisible pole are found are called the Earth’s poles – the North Pole and the South Pole.


Location of Polar Regions by David Kernow

The North Pole is the northernmost part of the Earth. It is located in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, where the waters are almost permanently covered in blocks of sea ice. The area around the North Pole is called the Arctic Circle.

The South Pole is the southernmost part of the Earth. It is located on the continent of Antarctica, of which about ninety-eight percent is covered in ice at least a mile (1.6 kilometers) thick. The area around the South Pole is called the Antarctic Circle.

Antarctica is considered the world’s largest cold desert, receiving only 8 inches (20.3 centimeters) of rainfall at most each year. It is also the windiest, coldest and driest continent.

Life in the Polar Regions

The North and South Poles are the parts of the Earth that receive the least amount of heat from the Sun. Because of this, they are the coldest places on Earth. At the North Pole, temperatures range from 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 Celsius) to as much as 45 degrees Fahrenheit (43 Celsius) below zero while at the South Pole, it is even colder, the temperature dipping to as low as negative 128 degrees Fahrenheit (-89 Celsius)! These extremely cold temperatures are responsible for the formation of huge amounts of ice.

At both the North and South Poles, the sun is never high up in the sky, but hovers just above the horizon.

At the North Pole, there are four seasons – winter, spring, summer and fall, with winter and summer being the longer seasons. In winter – from November to February – there are days when the Sun does not rise at all. In summer the Sun does not set and it is constantly daytime.

During summer, some of the sea ice in the North Pole melts while some stays frozen all year long. Due to global warming, studies show that more and more of the sea ice melts every summer, making scientists believe that Arctic summers may eventually be completely free of ice.


Broken Glaciers of North Pole by Pranav

At the South Pole, there are only two seasons – winter and summer, each lasting six months. In winter – from March to September – there is no sunlight and sometimes it is completely dark except for the faint moonlight. In summer, the Sun is constantly above the horizon.

Snow falls on both the North and South Poles but falls more heavily and more frequently at the South Pole. Sometimes, in Antarctica, there is so much snow that the ice sheets sink below sea level. In the Arctic, there are only certain places that are covered with snow all year round.

Blizzards occur every year in the Arctic and the Antarctic. These are massive snowstorms with strong winds and large amounts of snow. Ice storms, which have little wind but have freezing rain, also occur.

Some plants do grow in the Arctic tundra but in the Antarctic, only mosses and two species of flowering plants can be found, which only grow for a short time each year.

There are about two million people living in the Arctic Circle, many of whom belong to ethnic groups who have their culture tied to life in the Arctic. In the Antarctic, as few as 4000 people can be found, living in research stations, and more than half of them leave during winter.

Because of these harsh conditions at the North and South Poles, in order to survive, polar animals have to do at least two things – keep themselves warm and find food.

Keeping Warm

Polar animals have evolved to withstand freezing temperatures. They have compact bodies, short legs, short ears and short tails. This way, they have an easier time keeping themselves warm.


Polar bear resting but alert by Susanne Miller, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Many polar animals are also large, or larger than their relatives who live in warmer areas. This is because bigger is warmer – the larger the animal, the smaller its relative surface area, and the less heat it loses.

Most polar animals have thick fur or feathers, sometimes with as many as three layers, in order to keep themselves warm. Some shed their thick coats in the summer and then grow them again in winter.


Polar bear and cubs by Karilop311

For animals that do not have fur, they have an extra layer under their skin composed entirely of fat, called blubber. This layer of fat not only provides them with heat and but also energy.

Sometimes, however, having a thick coat is not enough, which is why polar animals tend to live in dens or burrows. Although these dwellings are made in the snow, it is still warmer inside them than out in the open air. Also, these dwellings provide protection from strong winds.

Large groups of animals who cannot fit in dens huddle together, sharing their body warmth. Often, in formations like these, the young animals are in the middle where it is warmest, and also where they are most protected.


Polar Bear by Michael Bentley

Some polar animals have the special ability to control their blood flow so that only warm blood flows to their most important organs, such as their brain, heart and lungs.

When it is very cold, some polar animals hibernate, which is a way for them to preserve both body heat and energy. Others who cannot hibernate migrate to warmer areas.

Finding Food

Food is scarce in the polar regions, so polar animals have to be good at finding food and making it last. Carnivorous animals at the North and South Poles are excellent hunters, able to smell animals in their burrows, while herbivores can smell plants growing under the snow.

Since the oceans are vast at the North and South Poles, most polar animals are good swimmers who can eat fish, either as their main food source or to supplement their diet.

When food is abundant, many polar animals stash their food so that they have something to eat when food is scarce again. Some eat and eat, fattening themselves up, then use their body fat to sustain them during the coming days, weeks or months.


Polar bear eating his fish by Tambako the Jaguar

Polar animals do their best to make their food last as long as it can inside their bodies. To do this, they limit their activity. The less active they are, the less energy they use.

Other Adaptations

Polar animals are mostly white. This camouflages them against the snow. Some are only white in winter and turn darker in the summer, allowing them to absorb the available sunlight and to be camouflaged against the soil.


Polar bear cubs in the snow by Fæ

Polar animals have feet that are well-adapted to walking on the snow. Their feet are covered in fur so they don’t feel cold and their toes or hooves are specially designed so that they do not sink into the snow or slip across the ice.

Many polar animals have excellent vision. They can see well above and under water. They can also see even when there is only a small amount of light.

Most polar animals do not have to drink water. They can get the water they need from the food they eat. Birds have salt glands which prevent them from ingesting too much salt from the seawater they drink.

Many polar animals have a high reproductive rate, giving birth to lots of young each year. This ensures the survival of the species since many of the young do not make it past their first year due to the harsh climate.

Antarctic Animals – Birds

The Antarctic petrel breeds on the Antarctic islands. Its diet consists of krill, fish and small squid, which it eats while it is swimming or scoops out of the water while flying. The word “petrel” comes from the name of St. Peter, since petrels have been observed to seemingly run on water before taking off into the air.


Black Petrel by sussexbirder

The Antarctic prion is the largest of the prions, birds which are related to petrels but are smaller, measuring about 11 inches (28 centimeters) long. The word “prion” is Greek for “saw”, which refers to the bird’s sawlike bill.


Wandering Albatross, Prion Island by brian.gratwicke

The black-browed albatross is the most widely distributed albatross, breeding on twelve islands in the Southern Ocean. It gets its name from the dark stripe above each of its eyes. It also has black edges on the undersides of its wings, but otherwise is completely white.

The imperial shag is a black and white bird with a blue ring around each of its eyes, which is why it is also known as the blue-eyed shag. It lives in colonies consisting of hundreds of pairs, each laying up to five eggs every year in nests made of seaweed, grass, mud and excrement.


Kelp Gull by sussexbirder

The kelp gull is also known as the Dominican gull, named after the Dominican order of friars who wear black and white. It has been observed to peck at right whales in order to eat their blubber, leaving them with large, open sores, and has also been seen dropping rocks on shellfish to open them.

Of the seventeen species of penguins, seven can be found in Antarctica. In fact, they are the only birds that live in Antarctica all year long. They are flightless birds but expert swimmers, who keep themselves warm with densely packed feathers that are almost impenetrable to wind and water.


Emperor Penguins by Christopher.Michel

The emperor penguin is the largest of all the penguins, growing up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) long and weighing nearly a hundred pounds (45.4 kilograms)! It is the only penguin that breeds during the winter, with males solely incubating the eggs in their brood pouch, while the females go to find food.

Emperor penguins are also the only penguins that have specially designed nasal passages, enabling them to recapture about eighty percent of the heat they lose when they exhale.

Emperor penguins are also the deepest divers among birds, able to dive to depth of more than 1700 feet (518 meters) to eat fish and krill. When underwater, they can hold their breath for up to 18 minutes.

The gentoo penguin has the longest tail of all penguins, which sweeps from side to side as it waddles. It is known for its loud trumpeting call which it gives with its head thrown back.

The macaroni penguin is distinguished by its yellow crest and red eyes. Its breeding colonies are the largest among penguins, composed of more than 50,000 pairs.

The snow petrel is one of only three birds that breed exclusively in Antarctica. It is pure white and is very tolerant to the cold; flocks are often seen gathered on icebergs and bathing in the snow.


Snowy Sheathbill, Hercules Bay by brian.gratwicke

The snowy sheathbill is the only land bird in Antarctica. It eats whatever food it can find on land, even stealing fish from penguins and eating their eggs and chicks, as well as carrion.


South Polar Skua by Samuel Blanc

The south polar skua is a large, aggressive bird that feeds on penguin chicks, as well as on the carcasses of penguins and seals. It even steals fish from other birds, like gulls and terns.

The wandering albatross has the largest wingspan of all birds, reaching up to 11 feet 6 inches (3.5 meters). Because of this, it can fly without flapping its wings for several hours. It mates for life and breeds every two years on islands in the Southern Ocean.


Giant Petrel by NOAA Photo Library

Wilson’s storm petrel is one of the most abundant bird species in the world, found on every continent, even Antarctica. At just 6 to 7 inches (15 to 18 centimeters) long and weighing 1.4 ounces (40 grams), it is the smallest warm-blooded animal that breeds in the Antarctic region.

Antarctic Animals – Fish & Other Sea Creatures

Antarctic krill are small, shrimp-like creatures that live in schools and swarms of thousands in the Southern Ocean, serving as food for penguins, whales and other animals in the Antarctic. Their exact number has not been determined, but it is believed that they are the most abundant animals on Earth.

Antarctic krill molt every 13 to 20 days in their six-year lifespan in order to grow. When food is scarce, their entire bodies, except for their eyes, shrink in size after each molting, so having exceptionally large eyes is a sign that a krill is starving.


Antarctic krill by Uwe Kils

Antarctic krill are bioluminescent. This means they have organs that light up in the dark, although the exact reason for this is unknown. They are also fast swimmers, able to swim backward by flipping their rear ends – a move known as lobstering – at a speed of 2 feet (61 centimeters) per second when escaping predators.

The Antarctic sea urchin is found on the seabed of the Southern Ocean. It ranges in color from dull red to bright purple, and is covered in spines and tube feet that it uses to move across the ocean floor.


Sea urchins by Zureks

The Antarctic toothfish, commonly mislabeled as the Antarctic cod, is one of the largest fish in the Southern Ocean, growing over 6 feet (1.8 meters) long. It does not have a swim bladder, the gas-filled organ that enables fish to float, but is one of few fish that are neutrally buoyant, enabling it to swim without much effort, although it usually stays at the bottom of the ocean floor.

What makes the Antarctic toothfish even more amazing is that it has antifreeze glycoproteins in its blood – proteins that prevent water from forming ice crystals inside it. Because of this, the Antarctic toothfish can easily survive in freezing waters.

Clione antarctica is a species of sea slug found in Antarctic waters. It can store five percent of the food it eats as lipids, which can allow it to survive for six months without eating. When chased by predators, it releases a chemical that deters fish. Scientists don’t yet understand how it works.

The colossal squid is also called the Antarctic squid because it can be found around Antarctica. It is the largest squid species: the largest specimen caught was 33 feet (10 meters) long and weighed over 1000 pounds (453.6 kilograms). It also has the largest eyes of any animal.

Like the giant squid, the colossal squid’s arms and tentacles are covered in suckers lined with small teeth, but that’s not all. Its limbs are also covered in hooks, some with three points.


Icefish by Marrabbio2

About twenty-five species of crocodile icefish are currently found in the waters around Antarctica. These fishes have colorless blood because they have no red blood cells, a loss they are able to survive by having low metabolic rates and large blood vessels, as well as larger hearts than other fish.

Antarctic Animals – Insects

The Antarctic winged midge is the only winged insect found in Antarctica. It was only discovered in 1990 and is still being researched. However, it has been determined that it has a supercooling ability, the ability to lower its body temperature even below the freezing point, without freezing.


Midge (Belgica Antarctic) by Tasteofcrayons

The Belgica antarctica is a flightless midge in Antarctica. Its flightlessness is believed to be an adaptation to prevent it from being blown away by strong winds. Amazingly, it can survive dehydration of up to thirty-five percent of its original body weight, as well as the freezing of its body fluids.

Antarctic Animals – Mammals

There are only two dolphins found in Antarctic waters. One of them is the hourglass dolphin, which gets its name from the white patches on its black back that are connected by a thin white strip, loosely forming an hourglass shape.


Hourglass dolphins by Lomvi2

The southern right whale dolphin is the other, commonly found swimming with hourglass dolphins. It has no dorsal fin and is a fairly active swimmer, leaping gracefully out of the water every now and then and even performing somersaults in the air.

Various species of seal can also be found in the Antarctic. One is the Antarctic fur seal – ninety-five percent of its population can be found on the island of South Georgia, which is the largest group of marine mammals in the world.


Antarctic fur seal by brian.gratwicke

The crabeater seal, the most abundant seal species in the world, is also widely distributed on the Antarctic coast. In spite of their name, crabeater seals eat mostly krill, and have teeth with multiple cusps that are especially designed for sieving and trapping them.

Young crabeater seals are the most playful of all young seals in the Antarctic. They gather in thousands and then swim, jump and dive all at the same time.

The leopard seal is one of the top predators in Antarctica, feeding on penguins, seabirds and other seals. It has also been known to attack humans, attempting to drag researchers off the ice and drag divers deep underwater. They even attack researcher’s inflatable boats!


Leopard seal hanging with a crabeater by marriedwithluggage

The Ross seal is the smallest of the Antarctic seals, with males growing less than 7 feet (2.1 meters) long and females growing only a little over 8 feet (2.4 meters) long. It has large eyes and is known for its siren-like sounds which travel over long distances. Interestingly, these sounds are made without the seal opening its mouth.

The southern elephant seal is the largest seal and the largest living carnivorous mammal: the males are able to grow up to 19 feet (5.8 meters) long and weigh up to 8800 pounds (3992 kilograms) – that’s even heavier than an adult walrus or a fully grown polar bear. Males are about five to six times larger than females, which is one of the greatest differences among mammals.


These alpha males elephant seals battle over territory by mikebaird

Southern elephant seals can stay on land for long periods of time – up to three months without eating, simply surviving off their thick blubber. When in the water, they dive repeatedly and do not linger on the surface, diving to depths of over 3000 feet (914 meters) to feed on squid, fish and crustaceans. The deepest dive made by an air-breathing mammal that was not a whale was recorded by a southern elephant seal – 6998 feet (2133 meters)!

The Weddell seal is the best-studied Antarctic seal, mainly because it can be easily approached by humans. It has a cat-like face with an upturned mouth that gives the appearance that it is smiling.

During the summer, Weddell seals spend most of their time on land, lying on their sides as they bask in the sun. During winter, they stay in the ocean to avoid blizzards, with only their heads poking out. They can hold their breath under water for up to 80 minutes.

Whales are also abundant in the Antarctic. The blue whale is the largest animal ever to exist, at 98 feet 30 meters) long and 160 tons (145 metric tons). In fact, before it was hunted extensively by whalers, it was most abundant in the Antarctic, where its population numbered over 300,000.

Because of its size, the blue whale also has the longest tongue of any animal, and the largest mouth, able to hold as much food as the equivalent of the weight of 10 buses! It cannot swallow an object larger than a beach ball, though, because of the way its mouth is structured, which is why it feeds mostly on krill.


Humpback whale with a blue whale by mikebaird

Humpback whales spend their summer in Antarctic waters where they feed on krill and fish, then migrate in winter to tropical waters to breed and give birth. Each humpback whale has a unique pattern on its tail fluke, by which it can be distinguished.

Humpback whales are known for being vocal and the males, in particular, are known for their “songs”. These songs, which typically last from 10 to 20 minutes, are composed of several sounds which vary in amplitude and frequency, with whales in a certain area all singing the same song.

Southern right whales stay in the cool waters around Antarctica all year long, unable to survive in tropical waters because of their thick blubber. Like other right whales, they have patches of white on their skin which is the result of the infestation of white lice.


Southern Right Whale by nestor galina

The spectacled porpoise is the only porpoise found in Antarctic waters, which is probably why it is rarely seen. It has a large dorsal fin and no beak but is still able to hunt squid and fish effectively.

Arctic Animals – Birds

The Atlantic puffin breeds in Iceland, Norway, Greenland and many islands in the Arctic Circle. Its bill, which is especially colorful during breeding season, and its waddling gait have given it the nickname “clown of the sea”.


Puffin caught in flight by Stig Nygaard

If the south polar skua is a villain in the Antarctic, the Arctic skua is the pirate of the Arctic, stealing from gulls and terns, which it constantly harasses, and feeding on smaller birds. Like other skuas, it will fiercely defend its nest, attacking anyone who approaches.

The Arctic tern has the longest regular migration route of any animal. Every year, it travels from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back, covering a distance of nearly 45,000 miles (72,420 kilometers).


Arctic tern by brian.gratwicke

The barnacle goose gets its name from an old legend, which said that the birds were born in the water, starting out as barnacles. In truth, barnacle geese are born on the Arctic islands, particularly on cliffs. After they are born, their parents do not bring them food. Instead, they must go down to the ground to eat, jumping off the cliff. In the process, many get injured and die.


Barnacle Goose by Stefan Berndtsson

The common raven can be found all across the northern hemisphere, even in the Arctic Circle. It is considered one of the most intelligent birds, able to solve problems in captivity and manipulate other animals into doing things for them in the wild, such as calling wolves to the site of a dead animal so that the wolves will open the carcass, allowing the raven to get the meat inside. It is also known to steal shiny objects simply out of curiosity.


Raven Symmetry by ingridtaylar

Crested auklets get their name from the crests – the feathers that stick out from their forehead – that they develop during the breeding season. In addition, they produce a certain odor which has been described as the smell of tangerines.

The gyrfalcon is the largest of all falcons. It is the national bird of Iceland and was once the favorite bird of European kings and nobles, Egyptian sultans and Vikings.


Gyrfalcon by dfaulder

The red-throated loon is the smallest loon, only 2 feet (61 centimeters) long at most, and is also the most widely distributed loon, though it breeds primarily in the Arctic. It is quite clumsy on land but is the only loon that can take off directly from the ground.


Red-throated loon by USFWS Headquarters

The rock ptarmigan is white in winter, which it spends in the Arctic, and brown in summer. Male rock ptarmigans have a comb on their heads and studies show that females prefer males with larger combs.


Rock Ptarmigan by Jan Frode Haugseth

The snow bunting is the northernmost-living of all songbirds. Its feet are covered with feathers, an adaptation to its cold environment.

The snowy owl is one of the heaviest owl species found north of the Arctic Circle. It is well-adapted to life there, having thick, white feathers, plenty of body fat and feathered feet. Snowy owls are able to swallow small prey whole, regurgitating the parts it cannot digest, such as bones and fur, into pellets after 18 to 24 hours.


Snowy Owl by Will Thomas

The thick-billed murre is believed to be a close relative of the now-extinct great auk. It is black and white, with its lower face black in summer and white in winter. During breeding, thick-billed murres form vast colonies on steep cliffs which face the ocean, with females laying a single egg on the bare rock. Interestingly, the survival rate of the chick depends on the experience of its parents, since experienced breeders choose more protected nesting sites and feed their chicks more.


Common Murre Feeding by GregTheBusker

If the smallest loon can be found in the Arctic, the largest loon, the yellow-billed loon, can be found there, as well. It can grow up to 38 inches (97 centimeters) long and eats mostly fish, which it catches with its beak while diving.

Arctic Animals – Fish & Other Sea Animals

The Atlantic cod normally matures in four years, but in the cold Arctic waters, it takes up to eight. It can grow up to 6.5 feet (2 meters) long and can swim fast – up to 21 inches (53 centimeters) per second – but tends to swim slower in colder waters in order to preserve energy.


The Atlantic cod by Kennyannydenny

No other freshwater fish can be found as far north as the Arctic char, which is common in Scandinavia, the Canadian Arctic, Siberia and the Alps. In spring and summer, Arctic char feed on insects and salmon eggs while in autumn and winter, they feed on plankton and shrimp. It also practices cannibalism, feeding on other Arctic char when food is scarce.

The Arctic lamprey is a jawless fish found all over the Arctic region. Those that migrate are parasitic, sucking the blood of other fishes, while those that do not migrate eat algae.

The Greenland shark lives farther north than any other shark. It is a large shark, almost as large as the Great White, with a maximum length of 24 feet (7.3 meters). It is also long-lived – some say it can live for up to 200 years!

The Greenland shark’s meat is poisonous, containing a toxin that produces the same effect as extreme drunkenness, with most who eat it unable to stand afterwards. It can, however, be eaten after boiling several times or after drying for several months.


A rare image of a Greenland shark by NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program

The lion’s mane jellyfish is the largest jellyfish, with a body that is 7 feet 6 inches (2.3 meters) in diameter and tentacles that grow up to 120 feet (36.6 meters) long. It can only be found in the cold waters of the Arctic where it remains just 50 feet (15.3 meters) below the surface. While it has been known to sting, its stings are not fatal and are easily treated.

The northern pike is a long, olive green fish found in the northern hemisphere. It normally feeds on other fish but when food is scarce, it will feed on smaller fish of its own kind. Sometimes, a large pike will even feed on other pikes in its area just so it can monopolize prey.

The northern prawn is a shrimp found on the muddy bottoms of cold waters. It starts out male but after a year or two, turns female – living the rest of its 8-year lifespan as a female.

Pink salmon are bright silver fish – the pink in their name comes from the color of their meat – which turns grey after spawning. On the way to spawning streams, male pink salmon get a hump just in front of their dorsal fin, earning the pink salmon its nickname, “humpback salmon”.

The slimy sculpin is a nocturnal fish which spends most of its time on the rocky bottom of cold freshwater habitats, probably because it is a poor swimmer, lacking a swim bladder. When the water becomes acidic, it becomes less active and has a lower rate of reproduction, making its population a good indicator of acidity levels in a body of water.

Arctic Animals – Insects

The Arctic bumblebee plays a major role in the pollination of plants in the Arctic. It is covered in thick fur, which prevents it from losing body heat, and has a higher abdominal temperature than its relatives in warmer areas.

The Arctic white butterfly thrives in the cold Arctic climate. It is a small butterfly with white wings, which survives the cold winter by wrapping itself in a cocoon.


Bumblebee by USFWS Headquarters

The Arctic woolly bear caterpillar is well-adapted to cold environments, able to withstand temperatures as low as 76 degrees Fahrenheit (60 Celsius) below zero. It spends about ninety percent of its life frozen, and five percen feeding and five percent in summer hibernation inside a protective cocoon.

Arctic Animals -Mammals

The Arctic fox, or snow fox, has a short muzzle, short legs and short ears that prevent body heat from escaping. It also has furry paws to walk on the snow and thick fur on the rest of its body, which is white in winter and brown in summer.

Arctic foxes can have as many as twenty-five kits in a litter, which is the most number of young among all carnivorous mammals. Both of the parents care for the young but even so, many do not survive the first few months due to the cold, lack of food or predation.


Arctic Fox by Mark Dumont

The Arctic ground squirrel is a burrowing rodent which hibernates in winter, during which it can reduce its body temperature to as low as 27 degrees Fahrenheit (-3 Celsius). It feeds on grasses, seeds and fungi, sometimes bringing the food back to its den in its cheek pouches.

The Arctic hare is among the largest hares, growing up to 28 inches (71 centimeters) long, but has relatively short ears that are an adaptation to the cold. It has a sharp sense of smell, able to sniff out twigs under the snow.


Arctic Hare by USFWS Headquarters

The Arctic shrew is tri-colored, having dark brown, light brown and black fur, which is brighter and thicker in winter. It is a solitary animal, so much so that in captivity, when two Arctic shrews are placed together in a cage, one of them just dies from the interaction. It does not burrow, but lies on the ground with its body rolled up.

The Arctic wolf is a subspecies of the gray wolf, the only subspecies that is not threatened but remains abundant in its original range, due to minimal contact with humans. Amazingly, it can survive in freezing temperature for years, and in absolute darkness for five months per year.


Arctic Wolf by tsaiproject

The killer whale, which is actually the largest dolphin and not a whale, can be found in waters all over the world but is especially abundant in the Arctic. It gets its name from the fact that it is a fearsome predator, using its excellent eyesight and hearing to hunt seals, fish and gulls, and even sharks and walruses, and have even been found with moose in their stomachs!

Lemmings are Arctic rodents which serve as important prey for various animals, such as Arctic foxes, Arctic wolves and snowy owls. During winter, they do not hibernate but continue looking for food or eating what they have managed to store.

Lemmings are prolific breeders. The Norway lemming, in particular, is able to reproduce just a month after birth and can breed all year round, producing a litter of six to eight young every three or four weeks.

Muskox get their name from the musk they produce during mating season, but are better known for their thick coat which reaches the ground. The coat is made into wool called qiviut, which is highly prized for its softness and warmth, costing up to $80 per ounce (28 grams).

The polar bear is one of the largest bears in the world. It remains white all year round but yellows with age. Its blubber can grow up to 4 inches (10 centimeters) thick, providing it with plenty of warmth under its thick fur. In fact, the polar bear is so good at keeping itself warm that it is prone to overheating – one reason why it loves to swim.

Polar bears are excellent swimmers and spend most of their time in the water. They do their hunting on land, though, mostly stalking seals and sometimes, walruses. It is one of the few animals that, when absolutely necessary, can take on an adult walrus and kill it.

Reindeer are abundant in the North Pole, which is probably how they became associated with Santa Claus. In most species, both males and females have antlers, with the males’ antlers being the second largest among all living deer, growing up to 53 inches (1.4 meters) long.


Reindeer by Marie Hale

In 2011, a study showed that reindeer can see light way below the threshold that humans can see, their eyes changing from gold to blue in the winter to better detect predators.

Seals can be found in the Arctic as well as the Antarctic. Of the Arctic seals, the harp seal is the most famous. Harp seal pups are born white, allowing them to blend into the snow, and then turn gray after 12 days, after which they are left behind by their mothers to mate. They survive for the next weeks by staying still and conserving their body fat, only able to swim and find food after the ice melts.

The bearded seal gets its name from its long whiskers which curl up when dry. Its whiskers are more than mere ornaments, though – they help the seal find clams, squid and fish across the ocean floor.

The ringed seal is the smallest Arctic seal, and is an important source of food for polar bears and the indigenous people of the Arctic. They have one-inch (2.5-centimeter) thick claws which they use to make breathing holes through the ice.


Ringed seal on ice by greenland_com

The stoat, or short-tailed weasel, has a brown coat in summer and a white coat in winter, which is thick and silky, as well. Sometimes, a stoat in its winter coat is called an ermine. It lives in burrows under the ground, using the skins of the rodents it kills to line the nesting chamber.

The walrus is a large marine mammal that can weigh up to 4400 pounds (1996 kilograms). It has long tusks, which are actually overgrown teeth, growing over 3 feet (0.9 meters) long. The walrus uses its tusks to form breathing holes in the ice and to help it climb onto the ice after swimming. Males also use their tusks in fighting for dominance, with the male having the longest tusks often being the most dominant.

Walruses can sleep in the water because they have an air sac under their throats that enables them to float. They have nearly 6 inches (15 centimeters) of blubber to keep them warm in the water, and they are also able to constrict their blood vessels to preserve body heat, making them appear white when they are swimming.


Walrus on ice floe scouting by greenland_com

The wolverine is the largest member of the weasel family. It has thick, oily fur which is resistant to water and frost, keeping it warm. It also has a special tooth at the back of its mouth which allows it to tear meat off frozen carrion.

The wolverine has a reputation as a fierce predator and scavenger, able to kill adult deer much larger than itself, as well as lynxes and wolf pups, and to steal kills from wolves and bears. When it manages to find food, it eats voraciously, hardly leaving anything behind.


Wolverine by Uusijani

Video Page

Polar Birds:


Red-throated loon

Rock Ptarmigan

Snow Bunting

Snow Petrel

Snowy Owl

Polar Sea Creatures:

Bearded seals

Blue Whales

Elephant Seals

Humpback Whales

Killer Whales

Leopard Seals


Weddell Seals

Polar Mammals:

Arctic Hare

Arctic Fox



Polar bears


Stoat (ermine)


Photo Credits

Photo01 Open Polar Sea Ice by Moving Mountains Trust cc2.0 www.flickr.com/photos/movingmountainstrust/8693035476/ Photo02 Location of Polar Regions by David Kernow en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:LocationPolarRegions.png Photo03 broken glaciers of north pole by { pranav } cc2.0 www.flickr.com/photos/neychurluvr/5250868480/ Photo04 Polar bear resting but alert ursus maritimus by Susanne Miller, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Polar_bear_resting_but_alert_ursus_maritimus.jpg Photo05 Polar bear and cubs by Karilop311 cc2.0 www.flickr.com/photos/karilop/10788798494/ Photo06 Polar Bear by Michael Bentley cc2.0 www.flickr.com/photos/donhomer/6974437763/ Photo08 Polar bear eating his fish by Tambako the Jaguar cc2.0 www.flickr.com/photos/tambako/7246917966/ Photo09 Polar bear cubs in the snow by Fæ commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Polar_bear_cubs_in_the_snow.jpg Photo10 Black Petrel by sussexbirder cc2.0 www.flickr.com/photos/sussexbirder/8076914848/ Photo11 Wandering Albatross, Prion Island by brian.gratwicke www.flickr.com/photos/briangratwicke/6935463814/ Photo12 Kelp Gull by sussexbirder cc2.0 www.flickr.com/photos/sussexbirder/8079599605/ Photo13 Emperor Penguins by Christopher.Michel cc2.0 www.flickr.com/photos/cmichel67/11240231654/ Photo14 Snowy Sheathbill, Hercules Bay by brian.gratwicke cc2.0 www.flickr.com/photos/briangratwicke/6926285740/ Photo15 South Polar Skua by Samuel Blanc cc3.0 commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Skua_antarctique_-_South_Polar_Skua.jpg Photo17 fish8558 by NOAA Photo Library cc2.0 www.flickr.com/photos/noaaphotolib/5277945618/ Photo18 Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) by Uwe Kils cc3.0 en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Antarctic_krill_(Euphausia_superba).jpg Photo19 Sea urchins, Sterechinus neumayeri by Zureks cc3.0 en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sea_urchins,_Sterechinus_neumayeri.jpg Photo20 Icefish Chionodraco hamatus by Marrabbio2 en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Icefish_Chionodraco_hamatus.jpg Photo21 Midge by Tasteofcrayons en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Midge.jpg Photo22 Hourglas dolphin by Lomvi2 cc3.0 commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hourglas_dolphin.jpg Photo23 Antarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus gazella) by brian.gratwicke cc2.0 www.flickr.com/photos/briangratwicke/7072362771/ Photo24 Leopard seal hanging with a crabeater by marriedwithluggage cc2.0 www.flickr.com/photos/marriedwithluggage/5512021324/ Photo25 These alpha males elephant seals battle over territory by mikebaird cc2.0 www.flickr.com/photos/mikebaird/11830278314/ Photo26 humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) with a blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) by mikebaird cc2.0 www.flickr.com/photos/mikebaird/9022310086/ Photo27 Southern Right Whale by nestor galina cc2.0 www.flickr.com/photos/nestorgalina/2584671623/ Photo28 Puffin caught in flight by Stig Nygaard cc2.0 www.flickr.com/photos/stignygaard/3093874834/ Photo29 Arctic tern by brian.gratwicke cc2.0 www.flickr.com/photos/briangratwicke/9384589749/ Photo30 Vitkindad Gås / Barnacle Goose by Stefan Berndtsson cc2.0 www.flickr.com/photos/sbern/8528954608/ Photo31 Raven Symmetry by ingridtaylar cc2.0 www.flickr.com/photos/taylar/7185732115/ Photo32 Gyrfalcon by dfaulder cc2.0 www.flickr.com/photos/dfaulder/13277272135/ Photo33 red-throated loon by USFWS Headquarters cc2.0 www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq/5720515043/ Photo34 Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus Muta) by Jan Frode Haugseth cc3.0 commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rock_Ptarmigan_(Lagopus_Muta).jpg Photo35 Snowy Owl by Will Thomas cc2.0 www.flickr.com/photos/opso/11296575864/ Photo36 Common Murre Feeding by GregTheBusker cc2.0 www.flickr.com/photos/gregthebusker/6090621529/ Photo37 The Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) by Kennyannydenny cc3.0 commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kabeljauw_-_Artis.jpg Photo38 Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus) by NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Somniosus_microcephalus_okeanos.jpg Photo39 Bumblebee by USFWS Headquarters cc2.0 www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq/8424234649/ Photo40 Arctic Fox by Mark Dumont cc2.0 www.flickr.com/photos/wcdumonts/13138111425/ Photo41 Arctic Hare by USFWS Headquarters cc2.0 www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq/8247630184/ Photo42 Arctic Wolf by tsaiproject cc2.0 www.flickr.com/photos/tsaiproject/6906944335/ Photo44 Reindeer by Marie Hale cc2.o www.flickr.com/photos/15016964@N02/5912581373/ Photo45 Ringed seal on ice by greenland_com cc2.0 www.flickr.com/photos/ilovegreenland/8190636024/ Photo46 Walrus on ice floe scouting by greenland_com cc2.0 www.flickr.com/photos/ilovegreenland/8190644326/ Photo47 Wolverine (Gulo gulo, female, born 1996) at the Helsinki Zoo by Uusijani cc1.0 commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wolverine_(Gulo_gulo),_Korkeasaari.JPG


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