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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