What do humans do when jack frost arrives on the scene? At home, chances are we’ll switch the heating on, put on an extra layer or throw an additional blanket on the bed. Outside, we’ll don our hats, gloves, coats and scarves to stay out of the worst of the freezing temperatures. But what about animals who can’t do any of these things? How do the animals in the coldest parts of the planet cope when the temperatures plummet below freezing?
Arctic creatures don’t have the luxury of an electric blanket or a hot water bottle. We just need to make sure our boiler gets serviced regularly and we’re toasty all winter long. For Forest of Dean Boiler Installation, visit greenplanetheating.org . Instead they have adapted to the harsh conditions and developed some clever ways to combat the elements.
Lemmings live in the tundra of the Arctic where few plants can survive. With no vegetation to make a home, lemmings have adapted to burrowing underneath the snow. Thankfully, they are also covered in a thick fur and so don’t find the icy tunnels too uncomfortable. Surprisingly, the snow traps air inside the tunnels and actually makes a natural insulation.
Artic hares are another example of animals adapting to live in the harshest conditions. They are very hairy, and they use this to their advantage. As well as their layer of fur, they use another technique to keep warm. They huddle together in large social groups to share each other’s body warmth. There can be as many as hundreds of artic hares found huddled together for warmth in the coldest weather of the arctic.
The arctic is also home to the ground squirrel, obviously named that for the lack of trees found in the area. The squirrels can spend up to 7 months in a warm den for hibernation. Getting their dens ready for hibernation, they line it with whatever material they can find, such as leaves and hair. Whilst in hibernation, they can slow their heart rate right down and their temperature drops to almost zero. They survive in this coma-like state until the warmer weather of spring arrives.
The polar bear is king of staying warm in freezing places. It has fur so thick that it insulates the body perfectly. The fur is also naturally oily which works to keep moisture out and the heat in. Another line of defence that the polar has is a thick layer of blubber just beneath the skin. When you combine the thick, oily fur and layer of insulating fat under that fur, you can see why polar bears are so comfortable in the arctic.