Animal and plant life in the Arctic

One animal that most represents the Arctic wildlife is the polar bear. Many people can only mention a few species that are part of the Arctic region, but may be surprised to know the fact that there is a wide variety of animal life, both aquatic and terrestrial.

There are about 130 species of mammals, 280 species of birds, 3,000 species of insects, 450 species of fish and some reptiles and amphibians. Marine life is also formed by algae, krill, zooplankton and microorganisms that are essential for the survival of all other species, even as large as whales. Isn’t it amazing the number of animals that live there? And although it seems a lot, it is said that there are still more sea creatures that have not yet been discovered in the Arctic Ocean, since weather conditions make exploration very difficult and only some parts have been studied .

Among the most common wildlife we can mention:

Polar bear

The population of this beautiful flagship species is declining, because climate change has reduced them to about 20,000 specimens. There are about 19 sub-populations around the Arctic.
Condition: Vulnerable.


This large semi-aquatic mammal is of paramount importance to the Arctic, as it doesn’t inhabit any other region of the world. There is no exact figure of its population, but it’s for sure that hunting them for ivory, meat and skin, as well as climate change, put their numbers in latent risk.

Killer whale

This amazing mammal is adapted to survive in different temperatures, both warm and frost. They are distributed throughout the world and can be seen in northern latitudes such as the Arctic and in the south end of the earth. The numbers of their population is unknown.

Herd of reindeers

Reindeer in its natural environment


Caribou or Reindeer

The Caribou is essential to the inhabitants of the Arctic communities. Reindeer husbandry is a traditional livelihood for indigenous cultures like the Yakut, but can also provide transportation and meat. Poaching, habitat loss in places like Finland and natural predation are some dangers they face.
Condition: Least Concern.


These white whales are mainly located in Alaska, Russia and Greenland. It is estimated that there are around 150,000 belugas distributed throughout the world. Their capture for human consumption, industrial and urban pollution, as well as climate change, keep them at risk.
Condition: Near Threatened.


The narwhal is characterized by its huge and long tusk of up to two meters long. Their biggest threats are hunting, climate change and industrial activities.
Condition: Near Threatened.

Boreal whale

Of all cetaceans, bowhead whales are best suited to the climatic conditions of the Arctic. Pollution and disturbance by tourist traffic are its main environmental threats.
Condition: Least Concern.

Arctic fox

Fortunately, the arctic fox is in an ecological balance. It’s a predator of small species and also serves as food for larger animals. Greenland, Alaska and Canada are some regions with the greatest number of individuals.
Condition: Least Concern.

Lion’s Mane Jellyfish

It is the largest species of jellyfish known and their distribution covers the boreal waters of the Arctic, North Atlantic and North Pacific. Scientists say their tentacles can measure 30 meters long.


There’s a variety of seals located in the Arctic. Among them is the Greenland seal (Pagophilus groenlandicus), the Bearded Seal (Erignathus barbatus), ringed seal (Pusa hispida) and the hooded seal (Cystophora cristata), to name a few.

Arctic skua

They are great predators and are also known as pirate bird because of their natural behavior of stealing food from other birds.

Arctic Hare

Polar or arctic hare is located throughout the Arctic and is characterized by an excellent sense of smell, able to detect vegetation that remains covered with snow.
Condition: Least Concern.


Its amazing anatomy and very thick fur allows it to withstand the frigid arctic temperatures. Northern Canada and Greenland are their main homes.
Condition: Least Concern.

Arctic vegetation

Arctic vegetation

Although it seems like a uniformly white and desolate place, the fact is that this part of earth is home to about 3,000 plant species, 96 of them being completely endemic. This means that the Arctic is a very important for the natural balance of our planet part.

Vegetation is mostly visible in the summer months when the ice melts and the seas become liquid. Mosses and lichens less than 10 cm high add a little color to the Arctic landscape.

Each of the species inhabiting the Arctic are important to maintain an ecological balance. The food chain is a natural and essential cycle to keep populations in balance. The lack of a species represents less a food source for other animals, so they would have to find other means to survive and adapt to another routine of life, something that not everyone can achieve.

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