The predominant difference between the two polar regions (North and South) is that Antartica, or the South Pole region, is a continent covered with an immense ice shelf, where is the massive ice cap of the Arctic at the North Pole lies on the Arctic Ocean. Julia confuses the two polar regions due to similar names. The Arctic was discovered by Phoenician sailors years before the common era, who named the newly discovered region after a polar star which guided them to the end of the earth. The star was called “Arktos” by the Greeks during this time which meant “land of the big bear.” Coincidentally, this title helps many people remember that polar bears are found in the Arctic rather than Antarctica. Also found in the Arctic region is the arctic fox, different species of seals and whales, puffins, fulmars, and other bird species. Though the Arctic is obviously a very cold region, it is still much warmer than Antarctica in the South. Known as “the land of the midnight sun,” the Arctic is located in a landmass above 12 frozen feet of ice. Most commonly, scientists define the Arctic as the region above the Arctic Circle, an imaginary line that marks the latitude above which the sun does not set on the summer solstice, and does not rise on the winter solstice. So, at the North Pole, the sun rises only once each year and sets only once each year, offering six months of continuous daylight and six months of continuous night. "That is long!" Adrian noted.
Some animals live exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere like penguins and south polar skua bird, while others like polar bears, caribou, Arctic wolf and Arctic fox, Arctic hare, and musk ox live only at the Arctic region. Seals, killer whale, fish, and arctic tern bird inhabit both hemispheres.
Killer whales, also called orca, (buy here) are apex predators, meaning that they are at the top of the food chain, with no other animals (except for humans) hunting them. Some killer whales feed exclusively on fish, while others hunt marine mammals such as seals. Orcas use many different techniques to catch prey. Sometimes they beach themselves to catch seals on land, meaning they jump from the water onto land.
Although penguins (buy here) are stereotypically associated with Antarctica, most penguins do not live in Antarctica all year long. In fact, only two species actually live on the Antarctic coastline – the Emperor and the Adélie, the former (Emperor penguins) being the only animal to inhabit the open ice of Antarctica during the brutal winter as well as summer. So, Emperor penguins are true and the only permanent citizens of Antartica, who can rightfully declare the land as their own, since no other country had claimed the Antarctic region as of yet.
Although penguins reside only in the Southern Hemisphere, not all penguins live in a very cold climate. In fact, there are penguins in and around Australia, New Zealand, and in many areas along the tip of South Africa. Penguins can even be found up and around the coast of South America and even in the Galapagos Islands, which are located on the equator, being the warmest penguin home of all. Galapagos Islands have the average temperatures of around 73 degrees Fahrenheit – a 100 °F difference from the average temperature in Antarctica, which is - 58°F!
Despite the frigid cold winter conditions in the Arctic, the animal population is diverse. Herbivores on the tundra include the Arctic hare, lemming, muskox, and caribou. They are preyed on by the snowy owl, Arctic fox, grizzly bear, and wolf. The polar bear is also a predator, though it prefers to hunt for marine life from the ice, seals being its favorite food. There are also many Arctic birds and marine species endemic to the colder regions. Other land animals include wolverines, ermines, and Arctic ground squirrels. Marine mammals include seals, walrus, and several species of cetacean—baleen whales and also narwhals, killer whales and belugas. An excellent and famous example of a ring species exists and has been described around the Arctic Circle in the form of the Larus gulls.
I placed white styrofoam on one side to represent the continent of Antarctica, and blue marbles on the other to represent the Arctic ocean. I then poured water over it, froze the tray in the freezer and later added some instant snow (buy here).
This lesson is a part of our Polar Regions of the 🌏 Earth unit study (read here ❄️Polar 🌎Regions Unit Study • 🎅🏻 🇦🇶Land 🌊Water 🌬Air).