Arctic animal and plant habitats are defined by the line of continuous permafrost on land and in the sea by colder less saline waters. The permafrost layer means that there is no subsurface warm ground layer for reptiles or hibernating mammals to take shelter and thus their absence from the habitat. A large number of birds and insects present in temperate zones are also absent as they depend on trees for food and shelter. Those animals that do inhabit the Arctic are highly adapted physically and also in their behaviors’ to cope with the extreme environment. Polar Bears for instance roam widely, are great swimmers (have been spotted 50km from the nearest land) and do not hibernate.
There are approximately 20 species of land mammals that live in the Arctic Archipelago and on the mainland. Some of the animals that we might see along the way are Barren Ground and Peary caribou, moose, musk ox, reindeer, arctic wolf and a variety of bears (black, brown, grizzly and polar).
There are six species of marine mammal; these include walrus, beluga whales, narwhals, hooded seals and ring seals.
Beluga whales and Narwhals are particularly interesting species in that the beluga is a white whale that makes a sound like a canary and the Narwhals have a straight spiral tusk like a unicorn.
Vegetation is limited in the tundra regions, due to permafrost there are no trees, only dwarf shrubs, forbs, grasses, moss and lichens. Woody plants become less and less prominent as the latitude increases giving way to moss and lichens.