If you paid attention in school, you most likely know some of the animals that live in the Arctic. There are birds, seals, and of course, polar bears. But what about hairy crabs, horned whales, and creepy crawly bugs that also call the Arctic Circle home?
And then there are the critters that inhabit Antarctica. It may be on the other side of the world, but it also features extreme climate conditions and some crazy animals.
Just like wild creatures found in Florida or any other region, Antarctic and Arctic species are pretty varied. While some animals may also have relatives in other parts of the world, polar animals have adapted many physical abilities that allow them to thrive in their extreme environments. From being able to control their own heartbeats and metabolism to creating a body fluid that acts like antifreeze, scary animals in the Arctic and Antarctic are also pretty amazing.
So what weird and creepy animals of the Arctic and Antarctic have you possibly missed learning about? You'll have to read on to find out.
This crazy looking marine creature could only survive in two places: your worst nightmare and the Antarctic Ocean. Luckily it's confined to the ocean for now. It also goes by the descriptive title of "bristle worm."
The worm's fringe might seem bizarre, but its bristles help the creature crawl along the ocean floor, swim, and sometimes even defend itself against predators. Because it has sharp teeth, researchers believe the worm is a carnivore, and that it can possibly extend its jaws to catch its prey. To make things even weirder, the part that looks like its head is actually its throat.
Ice worms are related to leeches and earthworms, and these creepy crawlers are well adapted to life in the cold. They are able to regulate their body temperature so their insides don't freeze. They burrow deep into the surfaces of glaciers and tend to hide there during the day, since they run the risk of dying in warmer temperatures.
If you've ever tried walking on ice, you know it's quite easy to slip. Ice worms, however, transport themselves across and through glaciers by using small bristles on the outside of their bodies to grip the ice and give themselves some traction. And they're pretty good at it too, traveling up to 10 feet per hour across icy surfaces.
Tardigrades are one of the most unusual organisms found in Antarctica. They are also known as "water bears" for their plump bodies and clawed limbs, and are thought to be one of the tiniest creatures found on Earth. But anything that can survive in Antarctica shouldn't be judged by its size. In addition to being one of the smallest animals on the planet, they are also one of the oldest.
Tardigrades have the unique ability to remove all water from their bodies and replace it with a sugar, kind of like freeze-drying themselves in order to survive in harsh environments. They were even launched into space to test their tenacity. Most passed the test by surviving cosmic rays, normally deadly levels of UV radiation, and the vacuum of space with flying colors.
The lion's mane jellyfish is the largest of them all; specimens as large as eight feet wide and 120 feet long have been found. It's also possible for them to have up to 1,200 tentacles, making their size seem that much larger. These jellies like to hang out near the surface of the ocean in the Arctic, and have been known to travel in groups.
One lion's mane jelly may have managed to sting more than 50 people who were swimming off the coast of New Hampshire in 2010. After a large number of people suffered stings on the same day, the corpse of a lion's mane jelly was found nearby. Since jellies can sting even after they're dead, it's possible that the deceased 40-pound creature somehow drifted in from colder waters and managed to inflict damage throughout a wide area.