Adaptation by the Arctic Fox ( Alopex lagopus ) to the Polar Winter

  title={Adaptation by the Arctic Fox ( Alopex lagopus ) to the Polar Winter},
  author={P{\aa}l Prestrud},
In this article physiological, behavioural and morphological adaptations by the arctic fox to low temperatures and food scarcity in winter are discussed. The arctic fox ( Alopex lagopus ) adapts to the low polar winter temperatures as a result of the excellent insulative properties of its fur. Among mammals, the arctic fox has the best insulative fur of all. The lower critical temperature is below -40 degrees C, and consequently increased metabolic rate to maintain homeothermy is not needed… 

Figures from this paper

Adaptations to polar life in mammals and birds
  • A. S. Blix
  • Environmental Science
    Journal of Experimental Biology
  • 2016
Polar animals are well adapted to the hardships of polar life, particularly when the sun never sets in summer and darkness prevails during winter, high-latitude animals become intermittently active around the clock, allowing opportunistic feeding at all times.
Geographic variation in winter adaptations of snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus)
Hares from Pennsylvania had shorter, less dense, and less white winter coats than their northern counterparts, suggesting lower coat insulation, and hares in the southern population had lower pelage temperatures, indicating that they produced less heat than those in the northern population.
Interference competition between arctic and red foxes.
In this thesis, I investigate the relationship between arctic foxes Alopex lagopus and red foxes Vulpes vulpes in Swedish mountain tundra habitat (fjallen). The arctic fox population was severely
Surviving on cached foods — the energetics of egg-caching by arctic foxes
The energy content of greater snow goose eggs was measured and it was estimated that eggs lost only ~8% of their dry mass over 60 days of storage in the ground, and an adult arctic fox would need to recover 160-220 stored eggs to survive 6 months in resting conditions during cold winter temperatures.
Fitness and fur colouration - testing the camouflage and thermoregulation hypotheses in an Arctic mammal.
This field study provides the first evidence for an effect of colour morph on the reproductive performance of Arctic foxes under natural conditions, with a higher breeding propensity of the blue morph compared to the white one, and suggests an advantage of the dark morph not directly related to disruptive selection by crypsis or thermoregulation.
Overwintering strategies of Antarctic organisms
Although many organisms have specifically adapted to polar conditions, it is also apparent that for many, survival of the Antarctic winter draws upon an inherent phenotypic plasticity particularly amongst the invertebrates.
Thermoregulatory costs in molting Antarctic Weddell seals: impacts of physiological and environmental conditions
Thermoregulatory costs calculated from estimated basal metabolic rate and measured HF were more than double for molting seals as compared to those in pre-molt, which suggests that perfusion is increased during molt to support follicle development, despite the increased energetic costs associated with higher HF rates.
Effect of snow cover on the vulnerability of lemmings to mammalian predators in the Canadian Arctic
Abstract In the Arctic tundra, snow is believed to protect lemmings from mammalian predators during winter. We hypothesized that snow quality (depth and hardness) should affect mammalian predation
Arctic fox versus red fox in the warming Arctic: four decades of den surveys in north Yukon
In the western Arctic of North America, where climate warming was intense, the competitive balance between red and arctic foxes changed little in 40 years, and the results challenge the hypotheses linking climate to red fox expansion.
Farmed arctic foxes on the Fennoscandian mountain tundra: implications for conservation
A large number of captive-bred chimpanzees have been found to be susceptible to infectious disease, and the number of cases is likely to have increased in the past few years.


Photoperiod and fur lengths in the arctic fox (Alopex lagopus L.)
The growth of fur in the Arctic fox parallels annual changes in ambient temperature and photoperiod and appears to be a remarkable parallel between the body-to-ambient temperature gradient and the fur lengths.
Ecological aspects of winter dormancy in the striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis)
Seasonal surface activity patterns of captive and free-ranging skunks at Delta Marsh, Manitoba, Canada, were determined using radio telemetry and visual observations using abdominally implanted radio transmitters.
Seasonal changes in body composition of the arctic ground squirrel, Citellus undulatus.
After hibernation, continued loss of weight by females indicates further utilization of reserves during gestation and nursing, and significant loss of mineral indicates that skeletal reserves of calcium are important during hibernation.
Heat regulation in some arctic and tropical mammals and birds.
A series of arctic and tropical mammals and birds at Point Barrow, Alaska (lat. 71° N.) and in Panama (lat. 9° N.) was subjected to various air temperatures in a respiration chamber where the heat
The Metabolism of Some Alaskan Animals in Winter and Summer
The seasonal variation in temperature exerts as powerful a thermal influence toward differentiating insulation as does the geographical difference in temperature from the arctic to the tropics.
Adaptation to cold in arctic and tropical mammals and birds in relation to body temperature, insulation, and basal metabolic rate.
There is no evidence of adaptive low body temperature in arctic mammals and birds, or highBody temperature in tropical mammals andbirds.
Peripheral Thermoregulation: Foot Temperature in Two Arctic Canines
Arctic foxes and gray wolves maintain their foot temperature just above the tissue freezing point (about -1�C)when standing on extremely cold snow, or when the foot is immersed in a -35�C bath in the
Arctic Animal Ecology
I. Introduction: Delimitation of the Arctic.- II. Ecological Factors in the Arctic.- 1. The Diurnal Rhythm of Organisms and Its Relationship to Environmental Parameters.- 2. Temperature Conditions in
Body insulation of some arctic and tropical mammals and birds.
Insulation measurements on raw skins from 16 arctic and 16 tropical mammals are given. There is, as would be expected, a good correlation between the thickness of the fur and the insulation. The
Seasonal changes in body mass and body composition of ringed seals (Phoca hispida) on Svalbard
It is suggested that the seasonal body mass changes are mostly due to changes in body fat content, and found no evidence of significant changes in core mass in adult seals.