How much do you know about animals living at the poles?

polar bear cub
Photo: AndreAnita/Shutterstock

They may live at the edges of the earth but that doesn't mean we should let them slip to the edges of our brains. How much do you know about animals living at the extremes of our planet? Take this quiz and find out!

Question 1 of 17

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ribbon seal
Photo: jomilo75/flickr CC
What species of arctic-dwelling seal is this?

Ribbon seals sport one of the most unique coat patterns among pinnipeds. They have black skin, and black fur with four white markings: a ring around the neck, a ring around the tail, and two rings on each side looping their front fins. The contrast in color is strongest in males. This species resides in Arctic areas of the Pacific ocean, where it lives in the open water during summer and fall, and stays on the pack ice during winter and spring.

Question 2 of 17

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polar bear food
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Polar bears feed almost exclusively on:

Though polar bears will take advantage of any easy meal including washed-up whales and sea bird eggs, their primary diet is ringed and bearded seals. Seals are rich in fat that polar bears need to survive during the lean times of the year, and they feast on as many seals as they can catch during the spring months before the pack ice melts. Though they stick mainly to ringed and bearded seals, polar bears will sometimes also catch harp seals, hooded seals and ribbon seals depending on where they are hunting. (And just in case you didn't know, crabeater seals, Weddell seals and penguins only live in Antarctica while polar bears only live in the Arctic.)

Question 3 of 17

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arctic tern
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What bird species travels from one pole to the other and back every year?

The Arctic tern is an extraordinary bird. With a wingspan of only about 2.5 feet and a weight of just 3.5 ounces, this marathon flyer treks nearly 56,000 miles a year! The species breeds in the Arctic and winters in the Antarctic (which is actually summer for Antarctica), making the pole-to-pole round trip every single year. They take advantage of the abundance of seasonal food as well as the almost round-the-clock daylight. They set the record for the farthest annual migration of any bird.

Question 4 of 17

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seal pups
Photo: Petra Christen/Shutterstock
What percentage of the world’s seal population resides in Antarctica?

Six species of seal live in Antarctica, and in total represent 60 percent of the world's seal population, all living on the chilly southern-most continent. What's the draw? Krill. For many seal species, krill is the main food source. Other species feed on penguins and other smaller seals. 

Question 5 of 17

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Photo: Glenn Williams/Public Domain
The narwhal is found in:

This unique whale species, famous for the ivory tusk jutting from its head like a unicorn horn, dwells in the Canadian Arctic and the waters near Greenland and Russia. The tusk is actually an elongated upper left canine tooth. Typically only the males have a single tusk but every so often a male may have two tusks and rarely females may have a tusk.

Question 6 of 17

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Photo: Dmitry Chulov/Shutterstock
In North America, these wild ungulates are called:

In Europe, reindeer are simply known as reindeer. However in North America, only the semi-domestic herds of this species are known as reindeer. If wild, they are known as caribou. At home on the frozen tundra, caribou feed on lichens and fungi. They have a special enzyme that allows them to break down the food that would otherwise lack much or any nutritional value. 

Question 7 of 17

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leopard seal
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What species of Antarctic-dwelling seal is this?

Leopard seals are big, aggressive predators and not an animal to trifle with. They can grow to over 11 feet long and weigh about 1,200 pounds. They hunt penguins and smaller crabeater seals, both of which make up about 40 percent of their diet, but also feed on krill, fish and squid among other small prey. The species gained some fame when a large female spent four days trying to feed penguins to National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen who captured the whole interaction on camera.

Question 8 of 17

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polar bear hear
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Polar bears have what color fur?

Though their fur can appear white or a shade of cream, the hair of polar bears is actually transparent. It gets the white look from the light refracted through the clear hair, and can sometimes appear cream or yellow due simply to the wear on the hair before it is shed for a new coat each year.

Question 9 of 17

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weddell seal
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The southernmost pinniped in the world is the:

The Weddell seal ranges to 80 degrees south, making it the southernmost seal in the world. It ranges far from the shoreline, using a breathing hole in the ice that it maintains by biting the ice to keep it open. Below the ice, it hunts for fish, and comes up onto the ice to rest and to birth and nurse pups.

Question 10 of 17

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Photo: CampCrazy Photography/Shutterstock
This whale species lives in the Arctic and is called the “canary of the sea.”

beluga whale
The pure white beluga whale is known as the canary of the sea for its wide vocabulary of chirps, knocks, squeals, whistles, clicks and other vocalizations. Its large forehead is actually capable of changing shape which helps the whale make its various sounds as well as different facial expressions. 

Question 11 of 17

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Walruses live in:

Walruses range from northeastern Canada to Greenland in the Atlantic and in the Pacific they range from Russia to Alaska. These large, tusked pinnipeds stick mostly to shallow waters where they feed on mollusks, such as clams, from the sea bed.

Question 12 of 17

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Photo: Raisa Kanareva/Shutterstock
Which arctic animal has thick hair called qiviut?

musk ox
The musk ox has two layers to its coat — the long guard hairs and the dense hair of the undercoat. This downy soft undercoat is known as qiviut, and is considered the lightest and warmest wool available from any animal. It is prized for its softness as well as its ability to keep the wearer warm. The inner coat is shed during the summer months when the animal no longer needs it.

Question 13 of 17

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arctic wolf
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This subspecies of grey wolf spends its entire life above the northern tree line, hunting on the Arctic tundra.

Known as the Arctic wolf as well as the white wolf and polar wolf, this subspecies of grey wolf is specially adapted to life above the tree line, including being overall smaller in size and with shorter ears and shorter muzzles to retain more body heat, among other adaptations. Thanks to their remote location, they are the least threatened of the grey wolves. With little contact with humans, hunting is not a significant threat. However, climate change and industrial development such as mines and pipelines are indeed a threat.

Question 14 of 17

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snowy owl
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Which owl species spends its summers in the farthest reaches of the Arctic circle, taking advantage of 24-hour daylight?

snowy owl
The snowy owl is the largest owl in North America by weight, and lives in the far north of the Arctic circle during summer, hunting lemmings and ptarmigan among other prey during the summer months. In winter they come south to continue hunting and are sometimes spotted as far south as Maryland.

Question 15 of 17

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greenland shark
Photo: NOAA Photo Library/Public Domain
What shark species calls the frigid Arctic waters home?

The Greenland shark is the biggest fish in the Arctic, growing up to 24 feet long. Mostly seen around Greenland and Iceland (which is how they got their name), researchers now think they may be common in any area that is deep and cold enough to suit the sharks' preference. They are lethargic swimmers, toping out at 1.7 miles an hour but preferring to swim at a cruising speed of less than 1 mile per hour, and they are mostly blind. They seem to eat anything from seals to whatever arctic animals fall in the water, including caribou and polar bears.

Question 16 of 17

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Photo: Dmytro Pylypenko/Shutterstock
The crabeater seal’s diet consists mainly of:

Despite their name, crabeater seals actually don't eat crabs. The seals actually feast on krill, and even have specially designed teeth that help them sieve krill from the water. The species is the most numerous seal species in the world and live around the entire edge of the Antarctic continent. 

Question 17 of 17

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How many species of penguin breed in Antarctica?

There are 17 species of penguin, but only 4 of the breed on the continent of Antarctica. These are the Emperor, Adelie, Chinstrap and Gentoo penguins.

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