Most people think of the tundra as a frozen wasteland, and for the most part, that's exactly what it is. Well, it's frozen, to be sure, but it's hardly a wasteland, as it's the home to thousands of interesting plants and animals. As Dr. Ian Malcolm once said in Jurassic Park, "Life finds a way," and it most certainly has in the world's tundra. Geographically, tundra biomes can be found in the northernmost regions of the world, which extend along the northern coast of North America, Greenland, Europe, and Asia.
Additionally, Antarctica and several islands found in the southernmost hemisphere are tundras, as are various alpine mountains, so there is far more tundra than on the planet that most people know, and they are all filled with wildlife. Because they call an otherwise inhospitable region of the planet their home, many interesting and unusual animals have carved a niche in various tundra.
Because a complete list of animals that live in the tundra would be vast, this article highlights the 15 most interesting. Check out the list below, and when you find a critter you consider to be cool, go ahead and give it a vote up to see which one rises to the top!
Polar Bears are arguably the most well-known and beloved animals of the tundra, though you wouldn't want to meet a hungry one. Polar Bears are the largest land carnivores alive on the planet today, and they can weigh in as much as 1,543 lbs., or 700 kg. They have evolved to survive in cold climates, and are adept at hunting across ice and open water.
Polar Bears spend most of their time resting on sea ice, which is clear from their scientific name, Ursus maritimus, which means "maritime bear." They can survive for long periods of time on stored fat but are threatened and classified as "Vulnerable" by the IUCN. Their numbers are dwindling primarily due to habitat loss caused by global climate change.6412A cool animal?
Penguins reside in numerous places around the globe but are predominantly found in Antarctica. There are penguin species that call South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, South America, and southern hemisphere islands, including the Galápagos, home, even though many of these locales are not in tundra biomes. In Antarctica, they reside on the land and surrounding waters of the continent's coasts, where Macaroni, King, Rockhopper, Gentoo, Adelie, Chinstrap, and Emperor penguins can be found.
Penguins are highly social birds that live in large populations consisting of hundreds or thousands of individuals. They are expert hunters in the water, where their bodies have evolved to allow for fast swimming, that looks akin to flight in the air, though all species of penguins are flightless due to their wings use as flippers. Many species are endangered or threatened due primarily to habitat loss caused by global climate change.5211A cool animal?
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Wolves are one of the most widely distributed and largest species of Canidae, and originally came from North America and Eurasia. These days, wolves are locally extirpated in Western Europe, most of the United States, Mexico, and Japan. Because of their adaptive nature, wolves can live in forests, shrublands, inland wetlands, grasslands, pastures, deserts, rocky peaks of mountains, and tundra.
Wolves thrive in Northern Eurasia and Greenland, where they can avoid human predation, making them a top-tier predator in their local ecosystem. Wolves are able to thrive in cold climates due to their thick fur and thick undercoat that helps keep them warm. They hunt in packs and are known to take down large deer and livestock, which brings them to the attention of ranchers and farmers.412A cool animal?
Arctic foxes are a species of small fox found in the Northern Hemisphere's Arctic tundra biome. They are well-adapted to surviving and thriving in cold environments due to their fur, which is thick. Their fur blends in with snow quite well, making for a useful camouflage. They have a generally round body shape, which helps to minimize the escape of body heat, and can live relatively comfortably in temperatures as low as –58°F.
Though the tundra may appear mostly lifeless, there's a lot going on under the snow that people don't typically see. The Arctic fox doesn't have this problem, as it can prey on everything from ringed seal pups and fish to seabirds and lemmings. They have also been known to subsist on carrion, seaweed, and berries. While they are predators in their home environment, they are prey animals to golden eagles, polar bears, other foxes, wolves, and grizzly bears.4810A cool animal?