Winter is officially here! Today, December 22, 2015, is the winter solstice and marks the start of the winter season. Much of the Arctic will not see any sunlight for the beginning of the winter season, especially today. The winter solstice is when the sunlight is the furthest away from the Arctic region. This is the time of year to truly appreciate animals that call the Arctic home. Join us in celebrating a few of these amazing Arctic species.
1. Polar Bears
Polar bears are well suited for the harsh climate of the Arctic. These Arctic bears are covered in protective, dense fur all over. Did you know that they even have fur on the bottom of their paws? Polar bears’ individual hair shafts have hollow cores helping them remain warm and buoyant. Not many animals are as tough as polar bears when it comes to surviving in the severe Arctic winter.
Narwhals are unlike other migratory whale species. Many whale species migrate from the Arctic in the winter but narwhals spend their entire lives in the frigid waters of the circumpolar Arctic. The Arctic waters of Canada
and Russia are home to these magical creatures. Narwhals were made for the winter. Another fun fact: Narwhals are known as the unicorn of the sea and their large horn is actually a tooth! These teeth can grow up to 8.8 feet in length. Female narwhals usually don’t have a prominent tooth like males do but they are all just as fascinating.
Unlike narwhals, both male and females have prominent tusks for defense, cutting through ice and getting back onto land. But similar to narwhals, walruses stay in the circumpolar Arctic during the entirety of the year. Their blubber enables them to live comfortably during the harsh winter seasons in the Arctic. Walruses can control their heart rate in order to better weather the Arctic winter temperatures, in and out of the water.
4. Harp Seals
Harp seals spend the majority of their lives in the chilly waters of the Arctic and north Atlantic
. A fatty layer of blubber allows harp seals to conserve their body heat in cold temperatures. This blubber also increases buoyancy, stores energy and provides a better body shape suited for the aquatic environment. Harp seals, similar to walruses, can reduce their heart rate to better control their body temperature and remain submerged in freezing waters.
The Arctic is home to many amazing species! These are just a few of our favorite winter-enduring animals. We are always amazed at how these species can survive in the bitter cold temperatures of winter. You can also help save the Arctic’s unique and amazing wildlife with a tax-deductible year-end gift to Ocean Conservancy.