The tundra is a treeless, grassy, frozen plain located in the Arctic or certain mountainous, high altitude (alpine) parts of the world. The tundra is known as “permafrost” in which the soil does not thaw for the majority of the year, and whose short growing season or high altitudes and rocky terrain will not support the growth of trees. As a result, most of the vegetation in the tundra is in the form of shrubs, grass, lichens, moss and sedges. The tundra animals who inhabit the frozen plains of the tundra are adept at surviving in this harsh climate.
What are Tundra Animals?
Tundra animals are animals who adapt to the extreme weather conditions of the tundra. Because the temperature in the winter in the Arctic tundra can be as cold as -25 degrees F, many of the tundra animals have thick fur and rounded ears and bodies to conserve heat. Some of the tundra animals are herbivores feasting on the sparse vegetation, and others who survive in the alpine tundra are climbers who traverse the rocky crags and high altitudes with ease. Some tundra animals are found near the Arctic ocean and coastlines of Antarctica.
Types of Tundra Animals
The climate of the tundra does not support a wide variety of animals. The tundra animals that inhabit this harsh environment are sometimes carnivores such as the polar bear, the arctic fox, the kea (parrot), and the snowy owl. There are also tundra animals that are semi-domesticated or domesticated such as the yak, the caribou (reindeer), and the musk ox who are used for their milk, meat, hide and even transportation. Some of the tundra animals that are herbivores are the mountain goat, the arctic hare, the lemming, and the marmot.
List of Tundra Animals
- Polar Bear
- Antarctic Penguin
- Himalayan Tahr
- Snowy Owl
- Musk Ox
- Arctic Fox
- Arctic Hare
- Kea (Parrot)
- Caribou (reindeer)
- Mountain Goat
Common Tundra Animals with Facts
Some tundra animals are critically endangered such as the chinchilla which has been overly hunted for its fur. Other tundra animals such as the Himalayan tahr are on the ICUN red list as “near threatened” due to hunting and loss of habitat. Climate change has also affected the polar bear whose habitat is slowly shrinking, and other tundra animals who are herbivores such as the yak, the pika, the marmot and the lemming, whose environment has also been disrupted by the warmer temperatures.
The arctic fox, the musk ox, and the Himalayan tahr all have thick coats, and the coat of the arctic fox changes from brown in the summer to white in the winter. The arctic hare also has a thick white coat, short limbs and a small nose to conserve heat in its Arctic surroundings, and can also run up to 60 km/hr. The marmot will hibernate in the winter, while the lemming remains active by burrowing under tunnels in the snow pack for food., The male snowy owl has more white feathers than his female counterpart.
The tundra biome is home to a variety of unique animals that have adapted to survive in the harsh, cold environment. Here are some of the most common tundra animals with interesting facts:
Polar bears are the largest land predators on Earth and are well adapted to the cold tundra environment. They have thick fur, a layer of blubber for insulation, and large paws that help them navigate the snow and ice. Polar bears are excellent swimmers and can swim for long distances in search of food. They are also skilled hunters and can catch seals, their primary prey, by waiting at breathing holes in the ice. Unfortunately, polar bears are threatened by climate change, which is causing the sea ice to melt and reducing their hunting grounds.
The Arctic fox is a small, nimble predator that is well adapted to the tundra environment. Its thick fur changes color with the seasons, from white in winter to brown or gray in summer, to blend in with the surroundings. Arctic foxes are opportunistic hunters and scavengers, feeding on small mammals, birds, and carrion. They are also known to follow polar bears to scavenge their leftovers. Arctic foxes are monogamous and mate for life, with both parents caring for the young.
Caribou, also known as reindeer, are large herbivores that are well adapted to the tundra environment. They have large, concave hooves that help them walk on snow and ice, and a thick coat of fur for insulation. Caribou migrate long distances in search of food, traveling in large herds that can number in the thousands. They feed on lichens, mosses, and other vegetation that grow in the tundra. Caribou are an important food source for many indigenous peoples in the Arctic.
The snowy owl is a large, majestic bird of prey that is well adapted to the tundra environment. It has thick feathers that provide insulation and camouflage, and large, powerful talons for catching prey. Snowy owls feed on small mammals, birds, and fish, and are known for their ability to hunt in the dark Arctic winter. They are also capable of flying long distances in search of food. Snowy owls are a symbol of the Arctic and are featured prominently in Inuit mythology.
The Arctic hare is a small herbivore that is well adapted to the tundra environment. It has thick fur that changes color with the seasons, from white in winter to brown or gray in summer, to blend in with the surroundings. Arctic hares feed on grasses, mosses, and other vegetation that grow in the tundra. They are also known for their ability to run at high speeds to escape predators. Arctic hares are an important food source for many predators, including Arctic foxes and wolves.