Now, there are certain places on Earth that are used to being subjected to extreme temperatures. It’s just the way things are around those parts. Over in Australia, for instance, the locals (human and animal alike) have come to accept the fact that it gets pretty dang hot over there. You know, people-audibly-crackling-as-you-pass-them-on-the-street sort of hot.
For my part, I live in England, so I’ve become acclimatised to rain. The rainy season around here started… well, in the year 1400 or so, and has shown little sign of letting up since. Other than brief spells of what is supposedly ‘summer.’
When we’re hit by something unusual, we’re thrown all out of wack. Just at the moment, for instance, the UK’s experiencing quite the heatwave. Nobody knows what in heckola is going on. This sort of thing is just unheard of. Tea drinking rates are going down, as it’s too dang hot for that sort of thing. I don’t need to tell you what a frightening omen it is when the Brits stop drinking tea.
But never mind all of this. The point is, the animal kingdom is incredibly adept at adjusting to life anywhere and everywhere in the world. Once they’ve done so, they’ll often stubbornly refuse to change their ways (see: confused Brits in heatwaves), but man are they good at it. Check out these magnificent animal species, which have taken the most bitter and freezing temperatures on Earth in their stride. There’s no throwing the train schedule into chaos at the slightest hint of a snowflake here.
20 The Wild Winter Wolves
Of course, when you think of the coldest temperatures on Earth, the poles come to mind. Mental images of polar bears floating by on sheets of ice in Coca-Cola commercials abound. Sure enough, we’re getting to that sort of thing, but first, to Russia.
This vast country is home to the world’s largest remaining population of grey wolves. Roughly 50,000 of these noble creatures live here, often inhabiting the coldest corners of the country. They’re built to endure the cold and super resourceful to boot. Eurasian wolves will scrape through the ice to access water. These hardy survival experts cannot be stopped.
19 One of Siberia’s Oldest, Coldest and Most Adorable Residents
When it comes to Russian extremes of temperature, Siberia is probably the most notable. The region is notorious for its long, bitter and harsh winters. Still, some of us just love a challenge, and the region still has around 36 million residents. If humans are hardy enough to make this frozen region home, then you can be sure that all manner of other animals have too.
Yakutia, in North Siberia, is among the coldest places on the planet. Temperatures reach -95 degrees Fahrenheit here. Still, that doesn’t deter the wild Yakutian horses. One of the world’s oldest species of horse, they survive by a combination of their fur (which is, scientifically speaking, ‘really dang furry indeed’), their thick skin and conservation of energy.
18 When Turtles Go Subzero
Speaking of hardy animals and consummate survivors, I don’t think a species named painted turtles sounds like much of a contender. They’re far too cute to be ruthless Bear Grylls-esque survival machines, you might think. Well, buckle up, friends, because these little things are not messing around.
Painted turtles are quite a prolific species, so they’ve had to be able to cope with different environments.
Those that live in the super cold areas east of the Rocky Mountains have a special trick up their sleeves: supercool. This doesn’t mean they can transform into Arthur ‘The Fonz’ Fonzarelli at will, but that the hatchlings are able to prevent ice crystals from forming in their blood.
In combination with their thick skin and cunning water storage in their bodies, this allows them to survive the harshest temperatures.
17 As Hard As… Well, Not Steel, But Wood
Speaking of teeny, easily underestimated animals that should not be able to cope, meet the wood frog.
These tough little guys and gals call the northern reaches of Alaska and the Yukon home, which calls for specialist equipment. The wood frog might not look like much, but its biology is fascinating.
As the cold weather closes in, this little amphibian’s body fills with cryoprotectants, chemicals that protect them from freezing solid.
As Business Insider reports, these protective measures are so potent that the humble wood frog is able to survive 60% of its whole body freezing, for stretches of up to two weeks!
16 Fierce, Furry And Majestic
That’s right, friends. Here we are. We’re weren’t going to get far down this list without those polar bears I promised cropping up, were we?
This magnificent creature needs no introduction. It’s a cultural and historical icon for the polar peoples, as much as it is for conservational efforts around the world. Not to mention those adorable commercials around the holiday season.
The polar bear is another that is tailor-fit for the harsh environment it calls home. Despite its vast size and strength, its claws are relatively small, so it can move a little more elegantly on the ice. Its thick fur and skin provide it protection, again, and it is also able to carefully regulate its energy reserves.
15 Santa’s Best Friend
On that note, of course, there’s another species we have to take a look at. Where would the polar bear be without its similarly-iconic, fellow cheesy holiday commercial star and polar pal, the reindeer?
Much like the polar bear, caribou (as they’re known in the US) are having a tough time of it lately. The hot mess that humanity is making of their habitat, along with all manner of other factors, has seen their numbers dwindling, with certain species (the Queen Charlotte Islands caribou) already extinct.
The Siberian tundra reindeer’s numbers are diminishing, which is tragic for this hardy and majestic creature.
14 Where Would We Be Without Krill?
Now, I know what you’re thinking. I do. I totally hear you. Krill is not the most attractive and photogenic of animals, whichever way you slice it. Having said that, it’s 2018, and we really should have gotten over ourselves and our shallowness by now. True beauty is on the inside, as any cheesy rom com will tell you.
They’re fascinating creatures, however, both physically and from a food chain standpoint. The Antarctic krill is crucial to its ecosystem, feeding and supporting an array of penguins, whales and such that are reliant on it. It’s one of the most abundant species on earth, with a biomass of around 500 million tonnes! How many krill does that equate to? 400 trillion, that’s how many.
13 Heck, If Squirrels Can Do It…
So far in this rundown, we’ve seen an impressive range of animal species. From the huge and powerful polar bear to the diminutive krill, all of these guys are just keepin’ on keepin’ on and doing their survival thing.
You don’t have to be big to be impressive, after all. Did I mention the 400 trillion krill, without which the ecosystem would instantly collapse? You’re dang right I did.
On that note, check out the Arctic ground squirrel. This adorable little thing survives through a combination of super thick fur and hibernation, and that’s just for starters.
They can super-freeze their bodies, to temperatures colder than any other mammal on Earth can match.
12 Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back In The Water
As we’ve already established, the polar bear is the head honcho among arctic predators. There’s really no disputing that. If you’ve ever watched David Attenborough introduce us to one in that characteristic whispery voice of his, you know what I’m talking about.
Down at the South Pole, however, the majestic leopard seal is the big cheese (second only to the Killer Whale, which is more of a roamer). They are renowned for their distinctive colouring and pattern, hence the name, as well as their great size. They can reach up to 11.5 feet long and weigh up to 1,320 pounds!
11 So Apparently Deer Have Fangs Now
Come on, now, deer. We expect better of you. We instantly bonded with your kind in Bambi, and wept right along with you when Bambi’s mom… well, you know. Whenever you’re portrayed in movies or TV shows, it's as friendly, adorable sorts, who nuzzle each other in the snow and all of that sort of thing.
So what are you tring to pull, musk deer? Why do the males of your species grow fangs instead of antlers? Granted, that’s a neat party trick, which is cute in a spooky sort of way, but still. Did you think this would be cool? Because it isn’t.
10 -238 Fahrenheit? No Problem!
Now, I have zero clue what it is, but there’s something about teeny creatures with tree- and forest-related names. They’re just unstoppable. They’re like Liam Neeson in Taken. They do not mess around. They will find you, and they will impress you with their incredible biology.
If the wood frog wasn’t astounding enough for you, then behold the red flat bark beetle. These little survivors spend most of the Alaskan winter in trees, safely ensconced beneath the bark. They are also able to prevent ice crystals destroying the cells of their bodies, surviving temperatures as impossible as -238°F. Now that is resilience.
9 The Intriguing, Baffling Beluga
The beluga whale is one of the ocean’s most distinctive, lovable and all-round quirky residents. They’re instantly recognised by the large protuberance on their heads. This is called the melon, and is a organ used to control and distribute the sounds that the whale makes. The beluga in particular is one heckola of a noise-maker; it’s nicknamed the sea canary because of its distinctive singing.
This curious creature is well adapted to its arctic habitat. Most obviously, it is a brilliant white, which is unusual for these sorts of species. It also boasts an acute sense of hearing, which is crucial for echolocation where sheet ice is common.
8 Now That’s What I Call Furry!
For a lot of species that thrive in the world’s colder, less welcoming regions, there’s a simple rule of thumb: be as furry as you can. We humans don’t have a whole lot of hair on our bodies, comparatively speaking, but we soon picked up on this concept too. If you don’t want to go the same way as Jack Torrance in The Shining, you want to wrap up real warm.
The Canada lynx totally gets this idea. Just look at it. I don’t know how much swag is too much swag, but it must be coming perilously close in those furry slippers. As a specialist predator, the Canada lynx feeds almost exclusively on the snowshoe hare (which we’ll meet later), hence its predilection for its cold Canadian habitat.
7 Holy Siberian Salamanders, Batman!
I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but feel a little short-changed here. When it comes to salamanders, I tend to picture mighty lizards shrouded in fire, scampering about hot coals like they were nothing at all.
Then I remember that the real world isn’t Harry Potter or a video game. Here in the real world, Siberian salamanders are a thing. It is mostly found in Siberia (how’s that for a revelation), and is incredibly resistant to cold.
In fact, there are documented cases of these lizards emerging from permafrost after years and scurrying away unharmed.
This is just beyond remarkable.
6 What Happens When You Cross A Grizzly Bear With A Moth?
I know. I’m sorry I gave you the mental image of a furious bear with wings divebombing every pic-er-nic it came across. I was thinking exactly the same thing, though, which is why I had to share that headline. I couldn’t suffer that image alone.
Anyway, never mind all of that. What I’m getting at here is that the Arctic woolly bear moth is real. It’s here, it’s now, and we’ve all just got to deal with it. This hardy little thing must literally shut its body down, allow natural anti-freeze to pump through itself and attempt to pupate like any other moth. The caterpillars spend almost 90% of their lives in this sorry condition, Business Insider reports.
5 Is That… A Chinstrap?
Now, we all love penguins. Of course we do. There’s something brilliantly unique, endearing and mischievous about them.
Everyone has a favourite penguin species, too. For me, it was always the rockhopper, with that characteristic crest and hilarious shuffling gait (which is, admittedly, just a penguin thing in general). Of the lesser-known varieties, though, I’d have to give a nod to the chinstrap penguin.
This circumpolar little guy come equipped with a waterproof coat and thick blubber, which help it thrive in its hostile environment. I’m not sure how that distinctive marking on its face helps, but it’s cute enough for us not to bother questioning.
4 The Coolest Cranes You Ever Saw
Now this is magnificent. Next up, we’ve got another species that calls the harsh environment of Siberia home. This one, however, is doing significantly worse than most.
The Siberian white crane (or snow crane) is one of the rarest species of bird on the planet. Altogether, estimates suggest that there are only 3200 of them left in the world. Of these, different breeding populations migrate to different places in the winter, but it’s the native Siberians that are in the most danger. Incredibly, there are only around 10 of them left in the wild. They’re known for their snowy white plumage and black primary feathers.
3 Don’t Forget Your Snowshoes
Earlier in this rundown, we met the Canada lynx, specialist predator and all-round ball of super-furry, fuzzy fun. Now to meet its specialised prey. Sorry, snowshoe hare. You are adorable, though.
The snowshoe hare, as you’ve probably guessed, is named in part for the generally snowy environment in which it finds itself. In order to adapt to this, the species has developed very large back legs. These are its snowshoes, which it uses to keep itself stable and agile in this difficult environment. Its fur also changes to a snowy white during the winter, so as to give it some camouflage.
2 The Sneaky, Scavenging Snowy Sheathbill
This is one of the fascinating things about nature. In the case of the Canadian lynx and the snowshoe hare, we’re looking at a perfect biological case study of predator and prey. How the numbers of one affects the numbers of the other, and so on. It’s a very niche, very specialised interaction.
On the other side of the coin, we also have the snowy sheathbill. These ravenous scavengers have never given a single crapola about their diet, and have been know to eat absolutely anything (including animal and human waste) they can get their bills on. They are Antarctica’s only native land bird.
1 Saving The Most Beautiful Until Last
That’s right, friends. You’re glad you stuck around until the end now, aren’t you? I just couldn’t finish this rundown of beautiful animals from the coldest reaches of the world without highlighting the arctic fox. Just look at it. Look. At it. If you’re not squeeing right now, you’d better go and check with your doctor that your squee muscles are still functioning.
True to its name, this hardly little fox is native to the Arctic continent. True to its fox-iness, it’s an omnivore with a taste for all sorts of things, and is perfectly adapted to its freezing environment. With that warm, thick, perfectly-camouflaged fur and a body shape that limits heat loss, it has all the tools it needs to thrive.
Resources: Animal’s Look, Business Insider, WWF, Cool Antarctica, All That’s Interesting