Alaskan Animal Adaptations - Bering Land Bridge National Refuge (US National Park Service) (2023)

Alaskan Animal Adaptations - Bering Land Bridge National Refuge (US National Park Service) (1)

What is customization? Adaptation is a change that develops over time and helps an organism become better suited to live in its environment. Every living thing has adaptations! There are two types: physical adaptations and behavioral adaptations. Physical adaptations change the way something looks, while a behavioral adaptation changes the way a species acts. Adaptations can help a plant or animal survive cold, heat, find food, use tools, hide from predators, and more.

Sometimes the adaptations seem strange, but they are necessary for survival in any environment, including the unforgiving Arctic. Many different plants and animals can have the same adaptation to survive the same phenomena. For example, many animals have adapted to change color in order to camouflage themselves in their environment and avoid predators. These are just some of the ways in which animals have adapted to their environment. Challenge yourself to learn more about these amazing creatures that roam the Arctic.

Dig deeper with our newest game:Discovery of arctic animals! Find the animals in the landscape to learn more about their amazing abilities to survive in their natural environment.

Arctic foxes have many adaptations. The winter, Arctic foxes are often found near sea ice. This environment provides few places to hide. Their striking white fur allows them to blend in with their surroundings and remain invisible to predators such as polar bears and orcas. As summer approaches, their fur turns brownish gray to match the tundra. They have sharp teeth and claws that allow them to catch and eat their prey. The arctic fox's sensitive hearing allows them to spot a lemming under 4-5 inches of snow, and they are known for their hunting technique of diving headfirst into the snow to capture prey. They feed mainly on small mammals, such as lemmings and tundra voles. Some fox may live near rocky cliffs along the coast and eat nesting seabirds such as gorse, puffins and mullets. When food is plentiful, foxes store bird eggs between boulders or in their dens to eat later. When food is scarce, it is not uncommon to see an arctic fox following a polar bear, hoping to feast on the remains of its latest hunt. Variety in their diet is essential for their survival in the tundra.

To keep warm during the winter, caribou have two layers of insulating fur. This fur, while warm, is completely hollow. Their buoyant hairs, broad hooves and strong legs help them swim at speeds of up to 6 miles per hour. Caribou have large, almost hoof-like suckers that spread wide to support the animal on snow and soft tundra, similar to snowshoes. When swimming, the hooves can also serve as a paddle. In addition, their hollow hooves serve as saddles to move through the snow in search of lichens to nibble on. Over time, the tips of their hooves become sharp, perfect for walking on ice. Caribou migrate between winter and summer range year-round and can log up to 2000 miles per year! The Bering Land Bridge is part of the winter range for the West Arctic Caribou Herd. Luckily for them, their hooves were made for the journey!

Beluga whale
Beluga whales have a rather unique adaptation, every summer, beluga whales shed their skin, through a process known as molting. They remove the old skin by rubbing it on gravel or coarse sandy river bottoms. Before they molt, their skin is yellow and scarred, but afterwards their skin is shiny and white, perfect for blending in with sea ice. Beluga neck bones are not fused, so they have the ability to move their heads and detect predators, an unusual feature for marine mammals. If a threat is detected, the beluga can swim forward, backward and upside down. Movement in so many directions allows them to escape predation! They hunt together with a pod, to protect them from predators. When they move with their pod, they can communicate through facial expressions, just like us!

(Video) Bering Land Bridge National Preserve - The Tundra

Physically, brown bears have a number of interesting adaptations! Their long curved claws help them dig small burrows and animal roots. The large muscle in their shoulders allows a bear to sprint up to 30 miles per hour to capture large, fast-moving prey such as caribou. Similar to humans, brown bears are omnivores. They eat plants, berries, moose, caribou, small mammals, fish, and even insects. If they can't find live prey, they scavenge using their powerful noses that can smell dead animals up to 10 miles away.

(Video) Bering Land Bridge National Preserve BioBlitz 2017

In order to conserve energy, brown bears hibernate during the long, cold arctic winter. Hibernation is a behavioral adaptation that allows the bear to snooze during the harshest part of the year, when temperatures are cold and food is hard to come by. Hibernation lowers the grizzly bear's body temperature, heart rate, and need for energy. They do not eat at all during the winter. Instead, they live off the fat they store in their bodies during the summer.

Moose are well adapted to life in the tundra. To walk the spongy, uneven and often snowy terrain, moose are equipped with unusually long feet with two large toes on each hoof. These toes are spread out to give the large mammal better balance. Like caribou, moose have hollow hair that traps heat in the winter and helps the moose float on water during the summer. When they go for a summer swim, moose have flippers that seal off their nostrils from inflowing water, allowing them to dive deep into rivers and lakes to pierce aquatic vegetation.

Male moose have antlers that are typically 4-5 feet wide. They use these horns to attract females and show their dominance over other males. They can also be used as a communication tool. when a moose feels threatened, they lower their heads and show their antlers as a warning. Males grow new horns every year! In the spring, velvet-covered antlers begin to emerge. This velvet protects the growing antlers like skin and supplies the growing bone with blood and oxygen. When their antlers are fully formed, the moose will rub off the velvet in time for mating season. After mating, their antlers will fall off and the cycle repeats itself the following spring!

Muskox have excellent fur, which consists of two layers. a very long outer coat and a thick woolly undercoat called qiviut. They shed their undercoat in the summer. Loose clumps hang from their coat and are often caught in willow bushes.

(Video) Telling a loon story: An Alaskan youth filming expedition in Bering Land Bridge National Preserve.

During the fall, male muskrats, called bulls, challenge each other for dominance. They push and ram each other with their heads and hooked horns. To survive such blows, their brain is protected by a helmet-like horn that is 4 inches thick, plus another 3 inches of skull.

Muskoxen have amazing stomachs that allow them to survive on more than lichen. They absorb all the nutrients they need to survive. In winter, they prefer hilltops with shallow snow cover and easily accessible lichens. Usually these places are the windiest and the cold is extreme, but they can easily find lichen and look for predators. When a predator threatens a herd, muskrats form a circle or line around the young. If the predator does not back down, the stronger calf will impose the threat.

All these adaptations prove that musk oxen are very well equipped for the tundra. It is one of the few animals that survived the ice age!

The largest bear in Alaska the polar bear has very special adaptations. Right now they can only live well in one type of habitat, sea ice. The polar bear's adaptations to life on the sea ice include a white coat with water-repellent guard hairs and dense warm underfur. They also keep their nose and ears small and fur covered to protect them from the cold. Their teeth are made for a carnivore rather than an omnivore diet, and hair covers almost completely the bottom of their legs.

But the polar bear is also a recycler! Recycles body heat. You may have guessed that the polar bear has white fur to hide in the ice, but the white fur also works as part of the heat recycling system. But first we need to talk about polar bear skin. The polar bear has black skin and white fur. Black color absorbs heat, very important when you live on ice, but white color reflects heat. So what happens is that as the polar bear radiates heat from its body, the white fur reflects the heat back to the skin and the black skin absorbs the heat keeping the bear warmer. A very complicated but cool customization.

(Video) Bering Land Bridge National Preserve The Tundra

There are five types of salmon in Alaska: King, Sockeye, Coho, Pink and Keta. Although the species may vary, the salmon family follows a similar life cycle and thus has similar adaptations. A salmon starts life as a fertilized egg at the bottom of a gravel bank. Here, along with 800 to 2,000 of its brothers and sisters, the eggs will hatch into tiny fish carrying a yoke sac. these are called alevins. The tiny pouch attached to their abdomen is like a built-in lunch box. Alevins will remain buried in the gravel until their lunch box is used up. At this stage, the young salmon is called a fry. They begin to turn silver and swim towards the sea. Fortunately, their gills are adapted to work in both fresh and salt water. During this period, young fish turn silver. Once they reach maturity, they return to the freshwater stream and begin their upstream migration, again changing costumes to a more showy scale to attract a mate. When returned to fresh water, the salmon will stop eating and use their fat stores to survive. Males will develop a hooked mouth to better fight for dominance. Using their keen sense of smell, they will return to the same place they were born and start the cycle all over again, spawning until they die.

Bearded seals live most of their lives on sea ice. One behavioral adaptation they have developed is to lie on ice floes with their heads facing down into the water. If a predator approaches or a threat is detected, the seal can easily slip into the water from the ice. Before diving, seals will hyperventilate to store oxygen in their blood. When they enter the water, they use their ownshorter legs and a streamlined body to glide through the water while you swim. During an underwater dive, their ears and nostrils close to keep water out. When hunting, seals use whisker vibrissae to help them "feel" for food along the ocean floor. They use strong suction to suck up their meals. Seals eat shrimp, crabs, clams and sometimes fish if available.

During the summer, snowshoe hares have brown fur, but in winter it turns white so they can better camouflage themselves in the snow. Another natural adaptation of the hare lies in their lucky feet! The hind legs of the snowshoe hare are significantly longer than the front. These giant feet allow the hare to travel over the snow without sinking, just like snowshoes!

Like the seal, the walrus has a "spindle" or torpedo-like body that allows them to move quickly through the water. While diving underwater, the walrus slows its heart rate to reduce the amount of oxygen intake. when you swim Their front flippers are used for driving and maneuvering, while their back flippers provide propulsion in the water. This comes in handy when walruses need to escape danger—they can swim up to 22 miles per hour! To stay warm in the cold Arctic waters, walruses have a thick layer of mud that can be up to 4 inches thick. To keep their vital organs and core warm, blood will be drawn away from the surface of their skin, making them appear white and pasty. The most notable walruses have large tusks that can be used to pull themselves onto the ice or land, break the ice for breathing holes, and demonstrate dominance over other males.


What are the Alaskan caribou adaptations? ›

In order to keep warm during the winter, caribou have two layers of insulating fur. This fur, while warm is completely hollow. Their buoyant hairs, wide hooves, and strong legs help them to swim as fast as 6 miles per hour.

What are the behavioral adaptations of the brown bear? ›

In order to save energy, brown bears hibernate through the long, cold arctic winter. Hibernating is a behavioral adaptation that allows the bear to snooze through the harshest part of the year when the temperatures are low and food is hard to find.

What adaptations do bears have? ›

Adaptations. Grizzlies have a large snout and nose with a sharp sense of smell to help them sniff out food. Bears also communicate by scent marking on trees and bushes including with their urine and feces. Grizzly bears can run up to 40 mph for short distances.

What are 3 adaptations of a polar bear? ›

  • Polar bears are strong swimmers; they swim across bays or wide leads without hesitation. ...
  • A polar bear's front paws propel them through the water dog-paddle style. ...
  • A thick layer of fat, up to 11 cm (4.3 in.) ...
  • Polar bears can obtain a swimming speed of 10 kph (6.2 mph).

What are 3 adaptations of a walrus? ›

Their blubber serves as a layer of insulation in the cold marine environment and helps them store energy. Their flippers are hairless. The skin on them is thick and rough, providing traction on land and ice. The Latin name for the walrus translates as “tooth-walking sea horse.” You can understand why.

What are 5 behavioral adaptations? ›

Examples of behavioral adaptation include migration, hibernation, learned behavior, alteration in the mode of reproduction, altered feeding habits, and distinct modes of communication.

What are 2 behavioral adaptations of a bear? ›

Polar bears behavioral adaptations include their hibernation habits, aggressive behaviors, and communication efforts. Bears often hibernate during frigid periods when food might be scarce.

What is a bear adaptation example? ›

Their claws are thick and sharp and help them pull out slippery seals from underneath the water. Polar bears also have very big heads with really sharp teeth that help them hunt their prey. They have big canines at the front and very sharp back molars that help them sheer blubber and fat off of their prey.

What are two adaptive features of bear? ›

Adaptive features of a polar bear:
  • Polar bears have thick layers of fat for insulation against the cold and to keep them warm.
  • They have thick white fur covering the whole body and keeping them warm at freezing temperatures.

What are 3 physical traits of bears? ›

Common characteristics of modern bears include large bodies with stocky legs, long snouts, small rounded ears, shaggy hair, plantigrade paws with five nonretractile claws, and short tails.

How do bears adapt to the winter? ›

Most bears hibernate or den during the winter months. The length of denning depends on location, and can vary from a few days or weeks to a few months or more. Bears make their dens in hollow trees or logs, under the root mass of a tree, in rock crevices, or even high in a tree in warmer climates.

What are animal adaptations? ›

An adaptation is defined as a physical or behavioral feature of an animal that helps them better survive in their environment. In other words, an adaptation is something on their body or something they do with their bodies that help them find food, water, mates, and shelter.

What are 3 animals that have adapted to the polar region? ›

The Arctic is home to life that exists nowhere else on Earth. Polar bears, narwhals, bowhead whales, and other creatures are able to live and thrive in the harsh climate of the Arctic because of their biological or behavioral adaptations.

Is a polar bear an adaptation? ›

Polar bears live in the Arctic where the air and water temperatures are very cold. They have special adaptations, or features that help them live in that habitat, like webbed feet, a layer of fat, fur that helps them blend in and dry off, and black skin to absorb the sun's heat.

What are the adaptations of a moose? ›

Moose have adaptations that help them survive the winter, including a thick winter coat and a long nose that warms air before it hits their lungs. Moose are active throughout the winter months, spending time foraging and roaming in their native habitats, including some parts of Colorado.

What are five 5 types of animal adaptations? ›

Examples of Physical Adaptations
  • Type of Body Covering - Fur, Feathers, Scales.
  • Color - Patterns, Camouflage - a color or pattern that allows an animal to hide in its environment.
  • Body Part - Claws, Beak, Antlers, Ears, Blubber (to keep them warm)
  • Defenses - Spray, Quills, Venom.
Jul 24, 2018

What are 4 examples of animal adaptations? ›

The shape of a beak, the type of feet, the placement of eyes, the presence of whiskers, the shape of the nose or ears, and the sharpness of teeth are all examples of structural adaptations which help different animals to survive.

What are 4 examples of adaptations? ›

Examples include the long necks of giraffes for feeding in the tops of trees, the streamlined bodies of aquatic fish and mammals, the light bones of flying birds and mammals, and the long daggerlike canine teeth of carnivores.

What is the most adaptable bear? ›

Brown bears are very adaptable and like humans, they consume a wide variety of foods. Common foods include salmon, berries, grasses, sedges, cow parsnip, ground squirrels, carrion, and roots.

What are the adaptations of a giraffe? ›

Adaptations. A reticulated giraffe's height enables it to reach food sources that are out of reach for other animals. Long prehensile tongues and fleshy lips strip leaves from branches. The tongue allows the giraffe to reach leaves on thorny branches without scratching its face or eyes.

What are the adaptations of a wolf? ›

Gray wolves have long legs that are well adapted to running, allowing them to move fast and travel far in search of food, and large skulls and jaws that are well suited to catching and feeding on large mammals. Wolves also have keen senses of smell, hearing and vision, which they use to detect prey and one another.

How do Arctic animals adapt to their environment? ›

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

What adaptations do arctic foxes have? ›

Arctic foxes have several adaptations that allow them to survive. Their round, compact bodies minimize surface area that is exposed to the cold air. Their muzzle, ears, and legs are short, which also conserves heat.

What are 3 behavioral adaptations in animals? ›

Behavioral Adaptation: Actions animals take to survive in their environments. Examples are hibernation, migration, and instincts.

What is a unique adaptation of a black bear? ›

Adaptations: Black bears have strong curved claws, used for climbing trees and ripping logs apart to search for food. They have a long, agile and sticky tongue for reaching into ant colonies and bee hives.

What are 2 examples of adaptation? ›

An example of a structural adaptation is the way some plants have adapted to life in dry, hot deserts. Plants called succulents have adapted to this climate by storing water in their short, thick stems and leaves. Seasonal migration is an example of a behavioral adaptation.

What is the behavioral of a bear? ›

Black Bear Behavior

While bears may defend a food resource or mate while they are present, bears are not territorial. They do not patrol or defend a specific area from intrusion by other bears. Bears respect a certain personal space, but often several animals overlap each other's living space at different times.

What are 2 physical adaptations that an animal can have? ›

The shape of a bird's beak, the color of a mammal's fur, the thickness or thinness of the fur, the shape of the nose or ears are all examples of physical adaptations which help different animals survive. Animals also have behavioral adaptations that have to do with their actions.

What are the two main types of animal adaptations? ›

Behavioral adaptations are actions that animals take to survive in their environments. On the other hand, physical adaptations are special body parts that help an animal survive in an environment.

What are two animals and their adaptive features? ›

More Animal Adaptations

Polar bears have white fur and a thick layer of fat under their skin, allowing them to be camouflaged and stay warm. Emperor penguins have blubber under their skin like polar bears and thick feathers to help them stay warm in the harsh environment of the Antarctic!

What are 4 facts about bears? ›

There are 8 species of bears found all around the world. A bear typically lives up to 25 years in the wild. A bear can live up to 50 years when kept in captivity. During the winter a bear can hibernate for up to 100 days.

What are 5 characteristics of a black bear? ›

Adult black bears are approximately 4 to 7 feet from nose to tail, and two to three feet high at the withers. Males are larger than females. Black bears have small eyes, rounded ears, a long snout, large non retractable claws, a large body, a short tail, and shaggy hair.

Do bears have emotions? ›

Not unlike people, bears can be empathetic, fearful, joyful, playful, social and even altruistic. They're all individuals and have unique personalities.

Can humans hibernate? ›

Human hibernation doesn't exist for many reasons, but the reason why is not quite as immediately obvious as you might think. Hibernation is a response to cold weather and reduced food availability.

Can you wake a hibernating bear? ›

Though you may find a bear curled up in its den during the winter, it is a bad idea to go near a hibernating bear. If you disturb a bear during hibernation, you could kill the animal. It requires a lot of stored energy for a bear to wake up and come out of the den.

How do bears not freeze during hibernation? ›

Bears, on the other hand, do this thing called “estivation.” It lets us maintain a little more metabolic activity, which helps maintain some warmth. It also means we can wake up when we need to—say, to address a crying cub, or to greet an unwelcome party who tries to mess with us.

What are 5 adaptation examples? ›

Five Amazing Adaptations That Help Animals Thrive in the Dark
  • Owl Ears Pinpoint Prey. ...
  • Bats Socialize with Soundwaves. ...
  • Snakes See in Infrared. ...
  • Lanternfishes Communicate with Light. ...
  • Spider Legs Sense Vibrations—and Sound.
Mar 1, 2022

What animal adapts the best? ›

Summary of 17 Resilient Animals That Adapt To Their Environment
RankAnimalOne Amazing Adaptation
1Mountain GoatsSpecialized Hooves
2HummingbirdsFast-beating Wings
3SkunksDefensive Spray
4CheetahsAmazing Sprinting Speed
13 more rows
May 1, 2023

What are 3 different types of adaptations? ›

Once an adaptation occurs, it generally falls into one of three main types: structural, physiological, or behavioral.

What adaptations do caribou have to help them survive in cold biomes? ›

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 underfur that they have little trouble with cold, even in the fiercest blizzards.

What are some behavioral adaptations of a caribou? ›

Behavioral Adaptations

The most important behavior caribou have adapted for survival is their annual migration from their summer range along the north coast to the boreal forests of the Richardson and Ogilvie mountain ranges. This 700 km trip allows the caribou to seek conditions essential for survival.

What are the adaptations of the caribou migration? ›

Adaptation (Structure and Function)

The caribou have developed many helpful adaptations for living in the far north. These adaptive traits include having large, fur-covered hooves for gripping the ice as they make their way across the frozen landscape in their annual migrations.

How have caribou adapted to climate change? ›

Some scientists believe that climate change may result in heavier snowfall in some regions that could then change migration patterns and cause some caribou to give birth to calves outside the more protected calving areas.

What are four adaptations of polar bears to help them to survive in the cold? ›

They have bumps, or papillae, on the bottom of their feet that help grip the ice as they are walking, kind of like winter tires or snow boots. They also have fur on their feet to help keep them warm and really sharp claws that help give them traction on the ice to they do not slip.

What are three animal adaptations to cold environments? ›

According to the National Park Service, there are three major strategies for animals, as well as insects and plants, to survive through cold temperatures: migration, hibernation and resistance (tolerance).

What are some of the adaptations animals have to survive the very cold winters? ›

Surviving Winter: How Animals Adapt To The Cold
  • Migration: Migration is a simple idea that involves leaving cold environments behind for warmer weather. ...
  • Hibernation: Hibernating allows animals to reduce their need for resources during winter months when resources are more scarce.
Nov 8, 2021

What is 1 example of behavioral adaptation? ›

Behavioral adaptation: something an animal does usually in response to some type of external stimulus in order to survive. Hibernating during winter is an example of a behavioral adaptation.

What is a behavioral adaptation of a moose? ›

Adaptations include extensive daily and seasonal movements, modified foraging behavior and activity patterns, increased sociality, sexual segregation, and predator avoidance.

What are some special features of the caribou? ›

General Description. Caribou have large, concave hoofs that spread widely to support the animal in snow and soft tundra. The feet also function as paddles when caribou swim. Caribou are the only member of the deer family (Cervidae) in which both sexes grow antlers.

How does a caribou protect itself? ›

They use their massive antlers to protect themselves from predators and find food beneath snow. Males also use their antlers to compete for females.

What animals in Alaska are affected by climate change? ›

Beaver and cottonwood have begun colonizing the North Slope (early harbingers of a boreal system re-creating itself north of the Brooks Range), displacing conspicuously white species such as snowy owls, arctic foxes and polar bears that are quickly losing their historic ranges in Alaska.


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6. Peopling the New World with Dr. Charles Speer 9.30.2021
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