Many animals hide away and hibernate during the colder months of the year, others migrate to sunnier climes, but there are some animals that not only enjoy the cold weather but have adapted to thrive in it. There are many ways in which these animals have evolved to deal with the cold and turn it to their advantage; including camouflaged white coats, layers of insulating blubber and a myriad of other small physical changes that reduce the surface area and prevent potential heat loss.
There are many animals that adapt in winter, so many in fact that we couldn't possibly list them all, which is why we have compiled a list of winter animals that we think are truly extraordinary.
Arguably the most well-known arctic (or rather, Antarctic) animal, penguins are true cryophiles. They have a number of biological features that allow them to survive in temperatures that are well below 0°C, including feathers that are so compacted together that there can be 70 individual feathers per square inch of skin!
The feathers on their back also serve a survival purpose, as their black colouring attracts and traps in heat, helping them to keep warm when on land. Penguins also have the standard winter survival essential that is blubber, a thick layer of tissue and fat that helps to retain body heat and aid in keeping the animal buoyant.
Quite large in size, the fur seal has a number of advantages when it comes to keeping out the cold. Firstly, as their name would suggest, they're covered from their heads to the tip of their rear flippers in an overcoat of dense fur. Their fur helps to keep them warm when they are on land, as it traps pockets of warm air to form a layer of insulation around the seal's skin.
This fur goes a long way to keeping these animals warm, but it does not help them very much in water, where the pressure will push the pockets of air out, and they do shed their fur once a year. Fortunately these 270kg animals have some back up insulation in the form of 6 inches of blubber, which help to keep them warm in the same way that it does the aforementioned penguins.
Blessed with a large body percentage of blubber and a relatively short (18ft long) stocky body, the Beluga whale survives the coldest months of the year by growing a thick layer of outer-skin which it will then shed when the temperature begins to get a little more clement. Rather than a dorsal fin, Beluga whales have a dorsal ridge which they can use to break through ice up to 3 inches thick.
Also known as the White Whale, the Beluga whale's skin tends to be completely white, if not a little bit on the grey side. Their camouflaged colouring is ideal not only to protect them against potential threats, but also to allow them to get close to their prey before they even know that they are there.
Because the arctic wolf is highly unlikely to spend much time swimming in the freezing seas, it has no need for blubber and relies on a generously thick outer-coat of fur and a dense fleecy under-coat to trap in heat. Compared to other types of wolves, the arctic wolf also has a shorter muzzle, as the reduced surface area helps to prevent excess heat loss.
The fur of the arctic wolf can be light grey to an almost snow white colour, allowing them to blend into their surroundings and more easily stalk their prey.
What would a list of cold-loving animals be without a mention of a polar bear? The polar bear, like the arctic wolf, is primarily a land mammal, but as it occasionally needs to dive into the sea to catch its dinner, it has developed a number of evolutionary advantages. It has a layer of blubber, as well as fur, to help keep it warm both when in the sea and when on dry land; and it also has very large feet to help it propel itself through the water.
Their large feet also help polar bears to distribute its weight when walking on ice and snow, making it more steady and less likely to break and fall through the ice. The pads on their paws also contain small bumps on them to help them grip to the ice and have more stable footing.