Iceland’s only native land mammal, the Arctic Fox

Iceland’s only native land mammal, the Arctic Fox

The Arctic Fox came to Iceland by traversing the frozen sea 10 000 years ago, during the last ice age. It is the country’s only native land mammal and, for its playful antics and beauty, a wildlife photography highlight. Its deep luxurious fur and innate wiles help it survive in such harsh conditions, but they aren’t its only evolution-honed mechanisms: a counter-current heat exchange in the circulation of its paws helps retain a stable core temperature, as does a good supply of body fat and a low surface area to volume ratio; the rounded body shape, short muzzle, legs, and thick ears means less heat can escape. Its heavily furred paws allow for a warm grip walking the ice, and keen hearing and a sharp olfactory sense can pinpoint food under the snow. The animal pounces with a high arc and punches through the snow to catch prey, and its fur changes colour with the seasons: winter brings a white to blend in with snow, summer a grey or brown. They’re a pleasure to watch wherever you see them in the Arctic, and they’re all over the circumpolar region, from the outskirts of Reykjavikto windswept pack ice beyond Franz Josef Land.

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