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Musk Ox

MUSK OX

The shaggy haired, lumbering musk oxen have lived in the Arctic for several thousand years, roaming the tundra and munching on lichens, roots and mosses. They are covered with a long, bushy outer coat of hair, called guard hair, that reaches almost to the ground—concealing an additional short undercoat that provides extra insulation in winter but falls out in warmer summer weather. Along with the yaks in Asia, the musk ox have longer fur than any other animal in the world. Underneath their shaggy hair, musk ox have a prominent bony plate lining their forehead and a distinct shoulder hump. Herds of musk ox can reach up to 3 dozen animals—and are sometimes led by a sole female. 

FUN FACT: When grey wolves take on musk ox, the herds are quick to respond with a “circle the wagon” defensive strategy. The hungry wolves are met with a tight wall of horns and foreheads while the young oxen remain safe in the middle. 

Caribou

CARIBOU 

Caribou—or the jolly man at the North Pole’s domesticated reindeer—live in the Arctic tundra regions and subarctic boreal forests. Caribou travel around 1,600 miles every year as they winter in sheltered, southern climates and summer up in the Arctic tundra’s northern climes. Considering the Arctic’s extensive geographical sprawl, it’s hardly surprising then that caribou take on the longest land migration in North America—and they can’t even fly.

Caribou’s massive hooves prove incredibly useful for their nomadic lifestyle. Not only can their hooves’ wide breadth support the large animal’s bulk on snow, they also prove to be effective paddles when swimming in water. The hoof is also equipped with sharp edges that help the caribou find purchase on slick ice or rocks when traveling, and the hollowed-out underside allows the caribou to scoop through snow in search of food. 

FUN FACT: Caribou are the only deer in which both the male and female grow antlers. 

Arctic Hare

ARCTIC HARE 

The arctic hare is another animal that’s adapted to the harsh environment of the Arctic tundra. Their shortened ears, thick fur and low surface area to volume ratio helps the fluffy creatures conserve body heat. Their physiological appearance changes as well. In the summer, the arctic hare’s coat is blue-gray to match the vegetation and rocks, but in the winter they don a stunning white coat to camouflage in with the world of snow and ice. 

As herbivores, arctic hares can also struggle to find food sources, and their long claws serve as useful tools to dig through packed snow and packed, frozen earth in search of food. Of course, they also prove useful when the arctic hares burrow into the snow for warmth. 

FUN FACT: You’d think that arctic hares would have more reason than their southern buddies to hibernate, but they don’t hibernate at all through the chilliest months. 

Arctic Wolf

ARCTIC WOLF 

Arctic wolves, also known as Melville Island Wolves, brave the Arctic’s freezing temperatures with their especially adapted bodies. Arctic wolves have two layers of fur as well as shorter muzzles, shorter legs, a bulkier physique and smaller, more rounded ears than their fellow gray wolf subspecies—all of which ensure excellent insulation and reduced heat loss. Their white pelts also help them blend into the snowy Arctic habitat. 

Arctic wolves can be found in the north and eastern coastal regions of Greenland as well as the northernmost regions of North America. As a result of the meager amount of prey available in the Arctic, arctic wolf packs can occupy territories of 1,000 square miles or more—a much greater territory than the wolves down south. In this vast territory, arctic wolves can sometimes cover up to 40 miles a day—traveling over ten hours— in search of caribou, musk oxen, arctic hare, lemmings, seals, ptarmigan and other passing birds on which to feast. It’s a good thing that the wolves can reach the speed of 40 miles per hour. 

Wood Frog

WOOD FROG 

Wood frogs are the only frog that lives north of the Arctic Circle, though they can be found down in Alabama and Idaho. Coming in various shades of red and brown, most wood frogs can be identified by the black marking covering their eyes much resembling a robber’s mask. 

Wood frogs have a unique adaptation to the Arctic’s frigid temperatures: freezing themselves. During the winter, the wood frogs cease breathing and their hearts cease beating. At the same time, their bodies produce a unique antifreeze that stops ice from freezing within she cells, though ice can form between the cells. Then the weather warms up, the frogs thaw out. 

Fun Fact: Beyond their amazing heart-stopping capabilities, wood frogs may be among the amphibians best able to identify their family members. As tadpoles, siblings have been known to find one another and remain in family groups. 

BROWN/COLLARED LEMMINGS 

Both brown and collared lemmings are some tough rodents built to survive chilly Arctic conditions. 

Brown lemmings tend to be chunkier with fluffy, reddish brown or tawny fur, though their winter coat is grayer and longer. Brown lemmings tend to prefer damp, marshy ground, whereas collared lemmings tend to avoid it. Similarly unlike brown lemmings—or true lemmings—collared lemmings aren’t actual lemmings, but rather belong to the vole family. The petite rodents are well-adapted to the High Arctic and Ungava Peninsula, where brown lemmings don’t tread, with their short tails and small ears as well as their seasonal coat: brown or gray in the summer, and white in the winter. They get their name from the collar of light brown fur that circles their neck.  

FUN FACT: During the winter, collared lemmings burrow deep in the snow. However, these are no bare burrows. Rather, they have nest rooms, bathrooms, and sleeping rooms.