​​​The Arctic Fox


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Seen here is an arctic fox lying on a bed of snow. Its bushy tail is being used as a warm covering against the frigid weather.

Scientific Name

The arctic fox's full scientific name is Alopex lagopus, however, it is also referred to as Vulpes lagopus.

Morphology

The arctic fox weighs about 6 to 17 pounds (3 to 8 kilograms). The length of its head to its body is anywhere from 18 to 27 inches (49 to 69 centimeters). Its thick bushy tail can be 14 inches (36 centimeters) long. There are 2 kinds of coloring for arctic foxes. Most have a white winter coat and a summer coat of a mottled gray-brown shade on the back with gray and white tones on the belly. Others are a dark gray-brown in the summer and gray-black with a bluish tinge in the winter.

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A blue arctic fox in its thick winter coat
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Blue arctic foxes in their thin summer coat

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A white arctic fox in its thick winter coat
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A white arctic fox in its summer coat


Habitat/ Ecosystem

The arctic fox is found in the far north, mainly in the Arctic Circle. Freezing cold conditions await the foxes in their 8 month winter. During this time, powerful snowstorms are common and temperatures can fall to -58°F (-50°C). The sun doesn't rise in much of the Arctic winter, so it's dark 24 hours a day. In the summer, arctic foxes live in the tundra at the edge of forest. Unlike the winter, there are about 18 weeks in each summer in which the sun doesn't set.
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The blue represents where the arctic foxes live.


Two Animals Nearby

Reindeer-

  • Also called caribou, reindeer live in herds as large as 500,000
  • They are about 4 feet (1.2 meters) at the shoulder and weigh as much as 550 pounds (249 kilograms)
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    Two reindeer
  • Male and female both have antlers which can grow up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) long
  • They have 2 layers of fur

Polar Bears-

  • Polar bears grow to be about 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall at the shoulder and weigh about 900 to 1,600 pounds (408 to 726 kilograms)
  • They only eat meat, making them carnivores
  • They have black skin that absorbs heat from the sun
  • They have no natural predators

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A polar bear


Two Plants Nearby

Arctic Poppy-

  • Arctic poppies can grow up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) tall
  • They grow a single flower per stem
  • They turn their face to follow the sun
  • They have cup-shaped petals to help better absorb sunlight

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Arctic poppies

Lichen-

  • Lichens consist of a fungus and either algae or autotrophic bacteria that live together in a beneficial relationship
  • The algae or bacteria produces food
  • The fungus provides shelter, water, and minerals
  • Lichens grow on the surface of rocks and tree barks
  • They are the first organisms to appear on the bare rocks in an area in which a volcanic eruption, fire, or a rock slide has occurred
  • Lichens are sensitive to air pollution
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    Crustose lichens on a wall

Adaptations

The arctic fox has several adaptations that enables it to survive so far in the north:
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An arctic fox walking on ice

  • A good supply of body fat to act as insulation against the cold
  • A white winter coat for camouflage
  • A rounded body shape, shorter legs, ears, nose, and muzzle to help keep body heat from escaping
  • Fur on the bottom of their paws to let them walk on ice to find food
  • A deep, thick coat of fur to keep warm in the frigid winter








Human Use?

Arctic foxes are trapped and hunted by humans in the winter, when their fur is thickest. Humans use the fur to make coats and other accessories. Luckily, arctic foxes' large litters of 7 to 15 cubs help keep their population from falling.

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A woman wearing a coat made of arctic fox fur

More Facts

  • Arctic foxes are also known as "white foxes, polar foxes, and snow foxes".
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    This arctic fox is following a polar bear in hope of extra food.
  • Sometimes, an arctic fox has only one option left for finding food- snatching it from a polar bear!
  • Arctic foxes live only about an average of 3 years in the wild.
  • An arctic fox's tail is called a "brush".
  • In order to survive in the winter, arctic foxes, like squirrels, dig holes and bury food in them. Later, they'll dig the food up again when there's little to eat.
  • Arctic foxes have the warmest fur of any mammal in the world.








Food Web

Below is a food web of the arctic hare. To the upper left of it, you can see the arctic fox-
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Arctic foxes are omnivores who eat what they can find. Their main source of meat are lemmings. They also eat voles, ground squirrels, birds, birds' eggs, insects, fish, seaweed, berries, and carrion. When food is hard to come by, they eat the feces of other animals.

Other Animals at the Genus Level

The arctic fox is the only animal in the genus Alopex. However,there are other animals in the genus Vulpes.

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the red fox (Vulpes vulpes)
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the pale fox (Vulpes pallida)





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the kit fox (Vulpes macrotis)


Extras

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Arctic Fox Wordsearch.pdf


Arctic Fox Crossword.pdf

The Arctic Fox (Powerpoint).ppt