May 15

If you are a fan of ARKive, you’re a fan of wild animals. At Polar Bears International, we love all animals, but especially polar bears. In fact, we’re the champion for polar bears and are doing everything we can to help them. But we can’t do it without you. That’s why we initiated a Save Our Sea Ice (SOS!) campaign.

Mrs. McKiel's 1st and 2nd grade students at Carpathia School in Winnipeg, Canada, created this bulletin board for the Save Our Sea (SOS!) campaign.

Mrs. McKiel’s 1st and 2nd grade students at Carpathia School in Winnipeg, Canada, created this bulletin board for the Save Our Sea (SOS!) campaign.

Polar Bears International’s SOS! campaign focuses attention on the urgent challenges polar bears face in a changing Arctic—with longer and longer ice-free periods threatening their survival—and the part each of us can play in stopping global warming, beginning with personal habits and expanding out to the community.

The campaign features a series of energy-saving efforts that begin each year on International Polar Bear Day, February 27th, and continue through the summer melt period. We’ve linked our challenges to earth awareness days, but you can launch any of these efforts at any time:

  • International Polar Bear Day, February 27 – Celebrate polar bears with us by taking our Thermostat Challenge, adjusting your thermostat up or down by three degrees depending on the season. And then make every day a Polar Bear Day by switching to a programmable thermostat, insulating your home, or installing solar panels to save energy.
  • Earth Hour, March 23 – Join us on Earth Hour by switching off the lights for one hour, at 8:30 p.m. local time, and make it a Polar Bear Hour by eating a cold, energy-saving meal. Then make every hour an Earth Hour through our Power Down Effort—at home, school, and in the office.
  • Earth Day, April 22 – Celebrate Earth Day with us by turning off your engine for waits longer than thirty seconds when dropping off or picking up passengers at an Earth Day event. And then make every day an Earth Day by taking our No Idling Challenge and using our toolkit to set up No Idle Zones. Why? Because a surprising percentage of greenhouse gas emissions from cars, light trucks, and vans come from idling engines with no transportation benefit.
  • Endangered Species Day, May 17 - Help polar bears and other endangered species every day by Sizing Up Your Pantry. Take stock of your pantry and think about your food choices, recognizing that fewer food miles, organic farming methods, and minimal processing and packaging have less impact on the planet—and can help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.
  • World Oceans Day, June 8 - Take action for polar bears and the sea ice they depend on every day with our Green House Grocery List. Begin by assessing your typical week’s grocery list to see how you measure up; then make adjustments where you can. Why? Because your food shopping habits can help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing the planet to warm and the sea ice to melt.
Polar bear family jumping between ice floes © Dick and Val Beck/Polar Bears International

A polar bear family jumps from floe to floe in a melting Arctic. To save arctic sea ice, we must each do our part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

To save polar bear habitat, we need to embrace sustainable living as a society. A promising shift is underway in sectors including transportation, energy usage, and food production—all of which have an impact on greenhouse gas emissions. You can become part of the momentum for change by modifying your own habits and taking action in your community in support of greener choices—from bikes lanes to farmer’s markets—that make a low-carbon lifestyle easier.

Find out more

Learn more about the polar bear and its arctic habitat on ARKive.

Find out more about Polar Bears International and how you can get involved by visiting their website.

Feb 24

"I'm a polar bear" logo

Date for your diary

February 27th is International Polar Bear Day, a whole day dedicated to raising awareness of this super cool species. The polar bear is dependent on sea ice for its survival, but climate change is causing drastic reductions in the extent of ice cover across the Arctic region, meaning that accessing prey will become more problematic for the polar bear as time goes on.

Polar bear image

The Arctic habitat of the polar bear is under threat

 

Get involved

ARKive polar bear masks

ARKive polar bear masks

Over the next week, help ARKive to raise awareness about one of the world’s most iconic species by saying “I’m a polar bear”!

Join the ARKive team and celebrate in style by making some awesome polar bear masks, take a photo of yourself and then simply post it on the ARKive Facebook wall to show your support.

Then continue to spread the love by changing your Facebook or Twitter profile pictures and sharing your pictures with all your friends!

What else can I do?

Take part in ARKive’s Creative Climate Change Challenge! Using your wild imagination and creative skills, come up with an innovative way to inspire your friends and family to do their bit and act on climate change. Why not make the polar bear your climate change mascot, or browse ARKive’s climate change pages to discover more species affected by climate change such as the leatherback turtle or common clownfish and use them for creative inspiration.

ARKive's Creative Climate Change Challenge logo

Join Polar Bear International’s Bundle Up! campaign, which encourages everyone to turn down their thermostat by 2 degrees. The reduction of carbon footprints could help to save the habitat of the polar bear in the long term. So why not turn the heating down and grab your nearest and dearest for a big bear hug?

*Like* our polar bear page and prepare to be astounded by the amazing collection of photos, videos and facts ARKive has to offer.

Polar bear image

'I'm a polar bear'

 

Hannah Mulvany, ARKive Species Text Author Intern.

Dec 24

Ever wished you could disappear? Many species of the Arctic and Antarctic depend on camouflage for survival in their extreme ecosystems. Being a master of disguise can enable a species to hide from predators as well as catch prey itself. Some covert critters even change their coloration throughout the colder winter months to make them indistinguishable in the snow.

We searched through ARKive to uncover our favourite sub-zero specialists…

Snowy owl

Snowy owl photo

The snowy owl unusually hunts throughout the day, making its white plumage invaluable for sneaking up on and catching prey.

Polar bear

Polar bear image

The earth’s largest living carnivore, the polar bear masks its black skin with its thick, white fur which also provides insulation against the freezing Arctic weather.

Southern fulmar

Southern fulmar image

One of the most abundant birds in the Antarctic region, the bill of the southern fulmar is conspicuous in comparison with the rest of its uniformly grey-white plumage.

Ptarmigan

Ptarmigan image

The ptarmigan is the only bird in Britain to completely change the colour of its plumage during winter from grey-brown to white with chameleon-like skill. This species also has feathered feet, enabling it to walk on soft snow with ease.

Snow petrel

Snow petrel image

The snow petrel’s scientific name, nivea, means snowy in Latin. This species breeds exclusively in the Antarctic and feeds further south than any other bird alongside the South polar skua (Catharacta maccormick).

Arctic fox

Arctic fox image

Another colour changing species, the pristine white coat of the Arctic fox changes during the summer to brown on the upper parts and grey-white underneath. This species can survive temperatures as low as -50 degrees due to the insulation provided by its pelage.

Under no disguise

Muskox image

Camouflage is unnecessary for species such as the muskox. This formidable bovid has many other adaptations such as a thick, layered coat, broad horns and short stocky legs making it one of the most dangerous prey for predators such as wolves and bears.

Find out more about these snowy species and their habitats on ARKive’s Antarctic and Arctic ecoregion pages.

Hannah Mulvany, ARKive Species Text Author Intern

Dec 10

The countdown to the holiday season is well and truly underway, and what better way to celebrate all things festive than with ARKive’s wonderfully wintry wildlife quiz!

Challenge your friends and family to see who is top of the pecking order and who will be left out in the cold with our seasonal selection of animal quiz questions. Who knows, you could even use it to settle those annual squabbles about who should have the last mince pie!

1. These polar animals all live in a wintery wonderland, but which one here is the odd one out?

 

Arctic foxEmperor penguinArctic hareSnowy owl

 

Arctic fox Emperor penguin adult and chick walking along ice
Arctic hare foraging in snow for food Female snowy owl flying low over the ground

 

2. Seasonal decorations during the festive season are a great way to brighten up the long winter nights, but which of these beautiful birds is also partial to adding a touch of sparkle to its home?

 

Emerald starlingVogelkop bowerbirdGoldfinchRuby-throated hummingbird

 

Emerald starling Vogelkop bowerbird in bower
Goldfinch perched on hawthorn Male ruby-throated hummingbird feeding

 

3. Which of these suitably festive-looking mammals hold the record for having the fastest-growing mammalian tissue known to science?

…Bonus point: What does the tissue form?

 

ReindeerPolar bearSnow leopardAntarctic fur seal

 

Svalbard reindeer in snow Polar bear family
Snow leopard female and juvenile Male Antarctic fur seal

 

4. Can you match these species to their snowy tracks?

 

Polar bearEmperor penguinGrey wolfCrabeater seal

 

Tracks on ice Tracks in snow
Tracks in snow Foot print in snow

 

5. They may all share festive names, but these animals also all live or breed on which isolated island in the Indian Ocean?

 

Christmas Island red crabChristmas frigatebirdChristmas imperial-pigeonChristmas shearwater

 

Migrating Christmas Island red crab Christmas frigatebird in flight
Christmas imperial pigeon perched in tree Christmas shearwater in burrow incubating egg

 

6. In Ukraine, which of these unlikely ornaments are thought to bring good luck if they are found adorning the tree on Christmas morning?

 

A spider’s weba cluster of berriesa bunch of flowersa bird’s nest

 

Female garden spider on dew covered web Common holly berries
Gibraltar candytuft close up of white flowers Common rosefinch nest with eggs

 

7. As part of the seasonal celebrations, children in Puerto Rico leave grass under their beds on the night before January 6th for which unusual animal?

 

Ecuadorian grass mouseCamelPuerto Rican boaGuanaco

 

Ecuadorean grass mouse feeding Wild Bactrian camel
Puerto Rican boa Guanaco near the Patagonian coast

 

8. In many Scandinavian countries, which animal is built in the centre of town during the festive season?

 

A sheepa horsea piga goat

Juvenile Dall sheep

Przewalski's horse

Wild boar

Wild goat

So, did your animal instincts earn you a place at the front of the pack, or did our festive nature quiz leave you scratching your head like this rather puzzled-looking American black bear?

Find out below!

 

The answers…

1. Emperor penguin – The Arctic fox, the Arctic hare and the snowy owl all occur in the Arctic, while the emperor penguin is the only one to live in the Antarctic.

2. Vogelkop bowerbird – While all of the other species may have dazzling names, the Vogelkop bowerbird is renowned for the beautiful shelters, or bowers, that the male builds to attract a mate.

3. Reindeer (Bonus point – the antlers) – Reindeer antlers the fastest growing tissue in any mammal. They grow at an astonishing rate, between 1-2 cm or more a day.

4. Clockwise from top left – Emperor penguin, Crabeater seal, Polar bear, Grey wolf

5.  Christmas Island – Christmas Island is a territory of Australia in the Indian Ocean. It is home to many unique species, some of which are found nowhere else on Earth.

6. A spider’s web – If a spider’s web is found on Christmas morning it is believed to bring good luck for the coming year.

7. Camel – On the evening of January the 5th, Puerto Rican children collect grass and place it in a shoebox under their beds for the Three Kings’ camels.

8. A goat – A large decorative goat made out of straw is built in the centre of many Scandinavian towns at Christmas, as part of one of Scandavia’s oldest festive traditons.

 

Helen Roddis, ARKive Education Officer

Oct 21

With the spectacular new BBC series Frozen Planet beginning next week in the UK, ARKive is giving you the chance to explore the dramatic landscapes and fascinating wildlife at the extremes of our planet with our new eco-region pages.

The new Arctic and Antarctic pages showcase the habitats and species at the extreme north and south of the planet, and also demonstrate how different the two poles can be. While the Antarctic is a rocky continent surrounded by the Southern Ocean, the Arctic is not a continent but a region at the extreme north of the planet, largely consisting of the frozen Arctic Ocean and the tops of the countries surrounding it.

Arctic image

Frozen Arctic Ocean

Antarctic image

Aerial view of the mountains in the Antarctic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poles apart

Due to the tilt of the planet, parts of both poles share the characteristic of having a period of 24 hour daylight during the summer months and perpetual darkness for a period during the winter. However, although both of these regions share an icy reputation, their climates can be quite different.

The Antarctic holds the record for the lowest temperature ever recorded on the Earth’s surface, at -89.2 degrees Celsius, with summer temperatures barely rising above freezing. While winter temperatures in the Arctic region can drop to around -60 degrees Celsius, summer temperatures are generally warmer than in the Antarctic, sometimes reaching up to 20 degrees Celsius.

Antarctic Peninsula image

Iceberg and mountains on the Antarctic Peninsula

Arctic tundra image

Arctic tundra in the Russian Arctic

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Animals at the extremes

In spite of popular misconception, polar bears do not hunt penguins. They live at opposite poles, with polar bears hunting on the frozen sea ice of the Arctic, and penguins only being found in the southern hemisphere. All animals that inhabit the polar regions, however, are superbly adapted to survive the extreme conditions with insulating layers of fat and dense fur or feathers.

Polar bear image

Polar bears in the north.......

Emperor penguin image

…….penguins in the south!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Arctic mammals

Other land mammals that occur in the Arctic region include the Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus), Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus), muskox (Ovibos moschatus) and reindeer (Rangifer tarandus). The Arctic is also home to a number of marine-dwelling mammal species, including the main prey of the polar bear, the ringed seal (Pusa hispida), as well as the walrus (Odobenus rosmarus) with its enormous tusks, the mysterious narwhal (Monodon monoceros) and the snow-white beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas).

Arctic fox image

Arctic fox on tundra

Muskox image

Muskox on Arctic tundra

 
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Ringed seal pup image

Ringed seal pup

Beluga whale image

Adult beluga whale

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Antarctic mammals

There are no naturally occurring land mammals in the Antarctic, but the surrounding oceans are home to a rich diversity of marine mammals, including ice habitat specialists, the leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx), Weddell seal (Leptonychotes weddellii) and crabeater seal (Lobodon carcinophaga).

The Southern Ocean around Antarctica is also home to many species of cetacean, including the Antarctic minke whale (Balaenoptera bonaerensis), sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), and the largest animal in the world, the blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus).

Crabeater seal image

Crabeater seal group on ice

Antarctic fur seal image

Antarctic fur seals swimming underwater

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Antarctic minke whale image

Antarctic minke whale surfacing amongst ice

Orca image

Orca female hunting king penguins

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

Extraordinary birds

Both the Arctic and Antarctic provide important breeding habitat for birds, with the brent goose (Branta bernicla) and the ivory gull (Pagophila eburnea) breeding exclusively in the Arctic, and species such as the wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans) and black-browed albatross (Thalassarche melanophrys) occurring in the Antarctic. 

Brent goose image

Brent goose in the Arctic

Adélie penguin image

Adélie penguins in the Antarctic

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Polar plants

The Arctic region is home to some 3,000 species of flowering plant, which bloom during the brief Arctic summer. The Arctic tundra also supports small shrubs and trees, such as the Arctic willow (Salix arctica).

Due to the extreme conditions, the Antarctic mainland is relatively poor in plant life, with no species of tree or shrub, and only two flowering plant species, the Antarctic hair grass (Deschampsia antarctica) and the Antarctic pearlwort (Colobanthus quitensis). 

Arctic poppy image

Arctic poppy

Antarctic hair grass image

Antarctic hair grass

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The future of the poles

Perhaps the greatest current threat to both the Arctic and Antarctic is climate change. Although the impact that changes in the global climate will have on the two poles is largely unknown, large scale melting of ice is a likely scenario. The future of these unique ecosystems, and the species that live in them, is very much reliant on international cooperation if they are to be conserved.
 
Learn more about the fascinating Arctic and Antarctic in our new eco-region pages.
 
Find out more about the new BBC series Frozen Planet.
 
Becky Moran, ARKive Species Text Author

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