Cold Desert


With snow covered land stretching for hundreds of miles with no vegetations or apparent sign of life, save a few stray patches of thorny plants, the cold deserts are very hostile to any animal for making a living.

Cold, frozen deserts experience severe lack of vegetation and adequate sunlight. No vegetation can grow here because of the snow. Thus animals find it very difficult to survive here. Some of the few found ones include the goat-antelopes like ibex, gorals and serows, the yaks, and the central Asian snow leopards with broad feet that serve as snow shoes. 

Both the ice capped poles of Earth has vast ice sheets and the glaciers flowing down the sea. Huge ice shelves jut far out into the waters. Fierce, bitter winds whirl snow about in blizzards. No place on earth is more forbidding.

Harsh though they are, Arctic lands are mild compared with the Antarctic continent. Thus the northern tip is inhabited by a shade greater variety of animals. Actually no reptiles, amphibians, or land mammals live in Antarctica. Apparently th eonly living creatutes there are a bunch of human visitors! Yet millions of birds and big sea mammals breed the coastal lines of this continent. 

Seals in Antarctica are of five kinds. Torpedo-like bodies and limbs designed as flippers make them all fine swimmers. But each lives somewhat differently. The Weddell seal lives just off Antarctica, sometimes diving an unbelievable 550 meters(1800 ft) to the seabed in search of fish and squid. The Ross seal hunts fish and cuttlefish in the gloom beneath floating ice and the streamlined leopard seal often attacks penguins. It chases them under water with great speed. Crabeater seals swallow krill caught near the surface. Largest of all seals is the elephant seal. Bulls can be half as heavy as an elephant. This giant breeds on islands around Antarctica.

Among animals in the Arctic musk oxen are relatives of sheep and goats both look more like small, shaggy cattle. No mammal is better fitted for a year round life upon the tundra. In winter its dense inner fleece and long coarse, outer hairs trap body warmth. Stubby limbs, short tail and ears help to reduce body area and thus the surface from which heat can be lost. So they can stand up to -70 C. In winter they feed by moonlight, pawing snow away from sparse vegetation like grasses and lichens.

Arctic hares and lemmings are among the smaller plant-eating mammals of the tundra. Camouflaged white in winter, arctic hares can winter on windswept hills where gales keep vegetation largely free from snow. Lemmings, are burrowing, hamster like-rodents. They dig up the snow to feed on buried stems and roots. 
These lemmings are the chief food for the Arctic fox and snowy owl. Foxes hunt hares too and eat fishes and plants if food is scarce.

The polar bear  is a real killer. All white and heavily furred these bears are the largest of all land based Arctic hunters. They roam shores and swim far out to pack ice. This agile animal can kill a seal with just one swipe of its paw.

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