Tundra – Ecology, Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Animal Adaptations

white fox on winter tundra Long, epicurean summer days, and long, piercingly winter nights … Springtime explosions of plant growth and worm abundance, and early fall killing frosts … Gentle rains, and awful winds … Animals of Alaska ‘s arctic tundra ecosystem have a bunch to deal with throughout the dramatic northern year. Some animals take advantage of summer ‘s abundance-and avoid winter ‘s perils-by migrate elsewhere for the winter. Those that remain have singular adaptations to help them boom year-round .

Warm winter coats

many mammals have specialized coats to ward off the winter cold. Caribou have hollow hairs that trap warmth close to their bodies. Muskoxen are so well insulated with undercoat that they have little trouble with cold, even in the fiercest blizzards .
White hare on tundra

Heat-efficient body shape

Since bodies with long legs, ears, and tails lose heat faster than those with shorter limbs, many north-polar animals, such as arctic fox and arctic rabbit, have evolved more pack bodies than their southerly counterparts to better conserve heat .

Growth and reproducation

many tundra animals grow more slowly, and reproduce less frequently, than do their non-tundra relatives. Tundra-dwelling lake trout may take ten years to reach maturity, compared to six years for those in more southern regions.

Winter arctic fox
Summer arctic fox


Arctic fox and ptarmigan, along with north-polar rabbit and ermine, are camouflaged according to the season, changing from winter white to summer embrown, and back again, each year .


Two tundra animals-arctic grind squirrel and grizzly bear-hibernate ( spend the winter in a country of deep quiescence, where heartbeat and breathing dense ) to escape the hardships of winter .

Snow as insulation

belittled mammals, such as tundra voles, lemmings, ermine, and shrews ca n’t hibernate. rather, they rely on the snow layer to insulate their tunnels and nests. In some places, bamboozle insulation is so good that tundra-dwelling lemmings are able to breed in the winter .

Plant Adaptations

hart rhodo on blooming on tundra Plants, besides, must deal with the cold of winter ( which most do by going abeyant ). But they besides must adapt to the relatively cool summer, the shortness of the growing season, chilly soils ( cooled by permafrost ), and frequent winds.


Because of the short growing season, most tundra plants are perennials-they spend several years gathering and storing nutrients between each episode of seed production. many can reproduce by sending runners through the land, sprouting new plants at the nodes. This is less dearly-won than blooming and producing seeds and fruits .

Heat Efficiency

To deal with aplomb summers, the flowers of Arctic dryad and Arctic poppy revolve lento throughout the long days, catching the sun ‘s rays like bantam satellite dishes .
Wooly lousewort

Protective Covering

Some plants, such as addled lousewort, protect themselves from wind, dehydration, and cold by growing chummy “ fur ” that is made up of thousands of bantam, curly hair.


Some tundra plants, such as Labrador tea and Arctic dryad, retain erstwhile leaves rather than dropping them. This conserves nutrients and helps protect the implant from cold, windscour, and dehydration. other plants, such as Kamchatka rhododendron, achieve extra protective covering by growing in dense mats or cushions .

Evolution for Survival

Some tundra plants, such as arctic birch, are well tougher than their non-tundra relatives, and are able to survive in harsh conditions. They have besides evolved a prostrate growth form, enjoying the supernumerary warmheartedness trapped in the boundary level equitable above the ground open .

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