Life in the Polar Regions. A short survey of plants and animals found in the Arctic and Antarctic Regions. Challenges to Life at the Poles. Plants and Animals must adapt to: Cold Drought Short growing season Long days, Long nights
A short survey of plants and animals found in the Arctic and Antarctic Regions
Tussock Sedge, dwarf shrub, moss
Sedge grass, moss wetland
Low grass, forbs, low shrub
Purple Saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia)
Arctic Willow (Salix arctica)
Reindeer Lichen / Caribou Moss(Cladonia rangiferina)
Arctic Moss (Calliergon giganteum)
White and Black Spruce Picea glauca, Picea mariana
Jack Pine, Pinusbanksiana
Balsam Fir, Abiesbalsamia
Marine/Coastal – auks, puffins, gulls, terns, loons, ducks, geese, swans
Terrestrial – sparrows (primarily tundra), owls, hawks, eagles, falcons , plovers, ravens
Gyrfalcon one of the only birds to winter in the Arctic, found only above treeline, hatch early to “outhunt” other birds of prey, hunt by flying low to ground and chasing prey
Before ballpoint or fountain pens, the quills of the whistling swans were a common implement for writing. Thousands of these birds were killed for their feathers and the whistling swan was driven almost to extinction. However, because of their isolation, Arctic populations have persisted.
Direct flight = ~6165 miles
Long distance trip between ~late-July and October by an Arctic Tern banded as chick
Puffin – surface dives to swim after small fish, catching and holding in its bill until it has a full load – known to have carried 61 fish in a single trip. Arranges fish crosswise in its bill using its raspy tongue to hold against the roof of its mouth while catching the next fish. Roof of its mouth has rearward-pointing spines to help hold the fish. Not graceful flyers, but can reach speeds of up to 88 km/hour. When arriving on land often end up crash landing!Spotlight on..
Smallest bird to overwinter in Arctic. (although some do migrate as far south as Central U.S.) Some breed as far north as Ellesmere Island. In the winter it survives by inhabiting the tunnels of lemmings, which run along the surface of the ground under the snow, where it is protected from harsh winds and can find seeds to eat.
Migration of American Golden Plover
Migrates along Atlantic Flyway- stops over in New England
Burbot (Lota lota)
Arctic lamprey (Lampetra japonica)
Salmon (Whitefish, Trout, Arctic Grayling, Arctic Cisco, Herring, Arctic Char)
Smelt (including argentines)
Lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens)
Longnose sucker (Catostomus catostomus)
Cods, Mora’s and Grenadiers
Daggertooth (Anotopterus pharao)* Black scabbardfish (Aphanopus carbo)
Eels, Slatjaw cutthroat (Synaphobranchus kaupi), longfin sawpalate, (Serrivomer parabeani)
Banded gunnel (Pholis fasciata), Pricklebacks
Atlantic hagfish (Myxine glutinosa)
Haeckel's chimaera (Harriotta haeckeli)
Lumpfish and Snailfish
Halibut and Flounder
Deepwater redfish (Sebastes mentella)
Sleeper sharks (Greenland shark, Somniosus microcephalus)
Alaska BlackfishArctic Fish
*also found in Antarctic
Lanternfish: deep sea fish - vertically migrate, possess photophores – light organs – on head and body. Level of light they emit is low enough to match the light coming from the surface of the sea and conceal the fish's presence from predators below, Swim in schools so large sonar pulses from boat navigational equipment often bounce off their swim bladders, giving the impression of a false ocean bottom!
Greenland Shark: largest fish in northern waters, Scientific name, Somniosus microcephalus – the tiny headed sleeper . Swims so slowly - often difficult to tell whether or not it is alive, this immense shark is a scavenger, shearing huge hunks of flesh off dead seals and whales or munching on the remains of dead fish or other marine organisms.
Arctic Cod: most northerly range of any marine species, swim in gigantic schools that can stretch for kilometers. The smallest of all the cods, now found encroaching on cod habitat in North Atlantic. One of the last remaining commercially viable cod species.
Arctic Char: most northerly range of any freshwater fish in the world, huge morphological adaptability – ranging from 10-100kg, must migrate out of oceans (fear of freezing)
Whales (Beaked, Grey, Right, Sperm, White, Roqual)*
Dolphins (Orca, Long-finned, White-beaked, Atlantic)* + Harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena)
Seals (Harbour, Harp, Hooded, Bearded, Ringed)*
Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus)
Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris)
Polar bear (Ursus maritimus)
Grizzly Bear (Ursusarctos horribilis)
Caribou (Rangifer tarandus)
Muskox (Ovibos moschatus)
Arctic fox (Alopex lagopus)
Grey wolf (Canis lupis)
Red fox (Vulpes vulpes)
Lemmings and Voles (Norway Lemming, Lemmus lemmus, Brown Lemming, Lemmus sibiricus)
Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus)
Arctic ground squirrel, Citellus parryi
Ermine (Mustela erminea)
Least weasel (Mustela nivalis)
Wolverine (Gulo gulo)
* Also found in Antarctic
Caribou Four sub-species in far north. Found primarily on tundra, spend winter in taiga. Their unpredictable migration patterns led many native cultures to herd them. Have countercurrent circulation like some birds and also extra phosphates in their blood to increase oxygen uptake in cold temps.
Smallest mammal in the arctic, brown in summer, white in winter. Do not hibernate – overwinter by burrowing into tunnels under snow and continuing to feed.
WalrusVery social – gather by the hundreds. Ranking established by tusk size. While diving, blood flow is diverted away from its skin and blubber; when it basks in the sun after a long dive in cold water, blood flow to the surface of the blubber is increased, allowing heat gain.
Lung branches longer with more surface area than temperate relatives. Lung structure enhances warming and mixing of cold inhaled air with warm exhaled air, improving heat conservation. Dens can have 4-12 entrances and cover up to 30 sq. m (323 sq. ft.). Some dens may be used for centuries, by many generations, and eventually become huge, with over 100 entrances.
Antarctic Pearlwort Colobanthus quitensis
Hairgrass Deschampsia antarctica
Tussock Grass, Falkland Islands
Lichens, Verrucaria, Xanthoria, Turgidosculum (Mastodia), LecanoraMosses, Muelleriella crassifoliaTussock Grass Puccinellia macquariensis
Photographs by Rob Seppelt
Adapted and Reproduced with permission from Elizabeth Anne Viaulizabeth Anne
Macaroni, Eudyptes chrysolophus, most numerous of all the world's penguins, with an estimated world population of over 9 million breeding pairs. Breed on peninsula and many outlying islands
Photo by Yan Ropert-Coudert
Emperor, Aptenodytes forsteri - largest, found on mainland only
Most highly studied, named after an area of the Peninsula called Adelie Land (Adele, wife of explorer Jules Dumont d’Urville) Least conspicuous, very good camouflage from predators. Estimated at 2.5 million pairs, largest populatin near Ross Sea.
Like Emperors, King penguins make no nest, and instead lay a single egg of around 310g, which they hold on their feet for the entire incubation period of about 55 days. This adaptation allows breeding in much colder terrain than would be the case for species that lay their eggs on the ground, and negates the need for nesting material. The eggs are brooded by both parents in turn, with shift changes of 6 to 18 days; the non-brooding parent going to sea on extended foraging trips. Found on islands around peninsula.
Antarctic Ice Fish have antifreeze proteins that keep their blood from freezing, instead absorbing oxygen through their skin. Some lack hemoglobin (Thus the blood is more fluid and the animals save energy otherwise needed to pump blood through their body),.
Julian Gutt, Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research
*Also found in Arctic
Leopard – Most ferocious
Weddell – Most well known
On the whole Antarctic continent, the only creatures that really live on the land are insects.
Midges and mites live in patches of moss that grow on rocky mountain sides, in spots that are sheltered from the wind, the insect eggs stay frozen all winter, and thaw and hatch the next year. The moss they live in often grows near bird rookeries, where it is fertilized by bird excrement -- called "guano.“
Ticks and lice also live on the sea birds, penguins, and seals
The largest land-living creature on the entire continent is the wingless fly, about six mm long (about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch).
Project Explore, Val Olnes, Univ. of Minn.