The Arctic Tundra Habitat
In this article, we will learn about some of the animals that live in the arctic tundra. The arctic tundra is a large area that lies between the north pole at the top of the world, and the coniferous forests that grow at lower latitudes. The arctic tundra includes the northern parts of Canada and Alaska, Scandinavia, and Siberia.
Survival is not easy in the arctic tundra. The tundra is usually very cold. The average annual temperature is -19 degrees Fahrenheit. It is also very dry, receiving less than ten inches of precipitation annually. Most tundra vegetation consists of low-growing plants such as mosses, lichens, and grasses. There are a few shrubs, but there are no trees because the ground is permanently frozen at or just below the surface. This frozen layer is called "permafrost." The arctic tundra is cold and dark in the winter. During the summer season, which lasts only six to ten weeks, the snow and the top layer of the permafrost melt. Insects and migrating birds are attracted to the marshes, bogs, and streams that form when the surface ice melts.
The arctic tundra is home to 48 species of land mammals. Most animals that live in the tundra have special characteristics that allow them to survive in their harsh environment. For example, some animals migrate, while others hibernate. Each species generally occurs in large numbers. There are rodents, shrews, foxes, hares, bears, musk ox, wolves, and deer. Huge herds of caribou feed on lichens and other plants. Some of the migrating birds that spend their summers in the arctic tundra are harlequin ducks, arctic terns, snow geese, and tundra swans. During the summer, there are also swarms of flies, mosquitoes, and tiny biting midges called "no-see-ums."