Explore The North Pole With These 21 Fascinating Arctic Animals

The Arctic is a mysterious world of ice and snow, much of it still seldom explored and thus home to creatures that remain relatively enigmatic. It may seem like not much can survive in these freezing temperatures, but life is abundant.

Here are 21 of the most incredible Arctic animals you’ll ever see, with one fascinating fact for each:

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Walrus

Arctic Animals Walrus

MALTE CHRISTIANS/AFP/Getty ImagesThe walrus uses its whiskers to detect shellfish, like clams, all the way down the ocean floor. It can eat up to 4,000 clams in one sitting.

Beluga Whale

Beluga Whale

Kazuhio Nogi/AFP/Getty ImagesBeluga whales use complex musical calls to communicate underwater, earning them the nickname the "canary of the sea."

Arctic Fox

Arctic Fox Sitting

Eric Kilby/FlickrArctic foxes must penetrate layers of snow to find food, diving headfirst into the snow to burrow for prey.

Harp Seal

Harp Seal

David Boily/AFP/Getty ImagesA mother harp seal can distinguish her pup from hundreds of others based on smell alone.

Polar Bear

Polar Bear Walking

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty ImagesThough polar bears appear to be white, their fur is actually pigment-free and transparent. Its hollow core merely reflects the largely white light around them. Underneath their fur, their skin is black.

Canada Lynx

Canada Lynx Walking

Wikimedia CommonsAlthough these expert hunters, about twice the size of a house cat, subsist almost exclusively on one type of prey (the snowshoe hare), they can take down prey as large as a young reindeer.

Snowshoe Hare

Snowshoe Hare

Wikimedia Commons This rabbit's large hind feet work like snowshoes, preventing it from sinking into deep snow.

Caribou

Caribou In Snow

JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty ImagesUnlike all other kinds of deer, both male and female reindeer grow antlers.

Sea Otter

Sea Otter In Water

David McNew/Getty ImagesTo counteract heat loss caused by its cold water environment, sea otters have to eat as much as a third of their own body weight in food each day.

Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear

Karen Bleier/AFP/GettyImagesAlthough this creature's scientific name (Ursus horribilis) literally means "terrifying bear," it isn't quite the killer you might expect. In fact, some estimates say that as much as 80-90 percent of its diet is made up not of meat, but plants, fruits, nuts, and roots.

Dall Sheep

Dall Sheep

Wikimedia Commons The male dall sheep's incredible horns, made of the same material as your fingernails, take as long as eight years to reach their full length of two-and-a-half feet.

Arctic Orca

Arctic Orca

Wikimedia Commons Killer whales are incredibly social animals, often working together to catch a meal. They've been recorded creating huge waves in the Arctic Ocean in order to knock seals off ice floes and into the water where they can be eaten.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle In Flight

David McNew/Getty ImagesWhen diving down through the air and toward the water for prey, these powerful creatures can travel at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour.

Puffin

Puffin

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty ImagesPuffins make amazing partners: They lay one egg per year with the same mate and take turns with domestic duties, like incubating the egg.

Muskox

Muskox Group

US Fish and Wildlife Service/Getty ImagesIf a muskox calf is threatened by a predator such as a wolf, the herd will form a circle around the calf in defense. Sometimes mature muskoxen will even scoop up an approaching wolf with its horns and throw it to the ground.

Snowy Owl

Snow Owl

Wikimedia Commons Unlike most other owls, the snowy owl is diurnal, meaning it hunts during both night and day.

Moose

Moose

Wikimedia Commons Although a moose's enormous antlers can weigh as much as 40 pounds, these hefty adornments are not at all permanent. Instead, a moose will shed its antlers and grow them anew as often as once per year.

Arctic Tern

Arctic Tern Soaring

Dan Kitwood/Getty ImagesEvery year, the Arctic tern migrates from the Arctic to the Antarctica. That's a 25,000 mile trip — one way.

Bowhead Whale

Bowhead Whale

Day Donaldson/FlickrUnlike many other species of whales, the bowhead whale does not migrate to warmer waters in the winter, but rather stays in Arctic waters all year round. They're able to do so largely because of their 20-inch layer of blubber, the thickest of any animal on Earth.

Narwhal

Narwhals Ice

Nat Geo Wild/YouTubeThe narwhal's distinctive tusk is actually an elongated tooth that can reach lengths of ten feet and is packed with millions of nerve endings. When two narwhals rub their tusks together, scientists now hypothesize they're communicating important information about the waters each have traveled through.

Wolverine

Wolverine

Wikimedia Commons These small yet surprisingly fearsome carnivores are both intimidating hunters (with reported takedowns of far lager animals including caribou and elk) and relentless scavengers that can smell an animal carcass buried under as much as 20 feet of snow.

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What We Loved This Week, Jul. 31 – Aug. 6

California’s weed nuns, rock stars before they were famous, pandas heading back to the wild, 1970s cocaine paraphernalia ads, modern border walls around the world.

Meet The California Nuns Who Grow Weed

California Weed Nuns

Soraya Matos/Vice

When you think of a Catholic nun, we’re pretty sure you don’t envision a joint in hand.

Well, the Sisters of the Valley are far from ordinary. While they wear habits and modest clothing, these spiritual Sisters are growing medical marijuana on their California land.

The Sisters are not only famous for their homemade salves, tinctures, and oils, but also for becoming leading cannabis activists in the campaign to normalize marijuana. Last week, they even showed their support at the Democratic National Convention.

Photographer Soraya Matos spent a day with the nuns at their home to capture a glimpse of their marijuana-filled lives. View more at Vice.

California Weed Nuns 2

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California Weed Nuns 3

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21 Strange But True Polar Bear Facts

They’re the mightiest predators of the Arctic, the masters of the ice and ocean. But disappearing ice might soon spell their doom. Here are 21 polar bear facts to help you appreciate these incredible animals before time runs out:

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Polar Bear Facts

Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images Though polar bears appear to be white, their fur is actually pigment-free and transparent, with a hollow core that merely reflects the largely white light around them. Underneath their fur, their skin is black.

Polar Bear Hunt

BBC/YouTubePolar bears throw tantrums if a seal happens to escape their clutches: They've been been seen pounding the ice with their paws or throwing blocks of ice around after a failed hunt.

Staring Polar Bear

Sean Gallup/Getty Images Polar bears are the largest land-based predators on Earth: Males can weigh as much as 1,700 pounds and grow up to ten feet in length.

Newborn Resting

STR/AFP/Getty ImagesAlthough some adult polar bears can be nearly the size of a small car, they are born weighing just over one pound. For comparison's sake, most people weigh around seven pounds when they're born.

Polar Bear Manitoba

Guy Clavel/AFP/Getty ImagesChurchill, Manitoba, the Polar Bear Capital of the World (there are 1,000 bears in the region, and only a little more than 800 people) boasts a booming polar bear spotting tourism industry. But they also have a polar bear prison.

Polar bears often wander into the town, rifle through trash cans, and sometimes even eat dogs. Offending bears are tranquilized and sent to the prison, a former aircraft hangar, where they're kept in cells, and only fed ice water for a few days before being released. The idea is to make their stay so unpleasant, they won't return.

Mom Cub

Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images Polar bears are great mothers. They take care of their cubs for a little over two years and protect them from aggressive males. A University of Calgary study found that female polar bears will sometimes adopt abandoned cubs into their own broods.

Mom Protecting Cub

Carmen Jaspersen/AFP/Getty Images Unlike most other bears, the polar bear does not hibernate — only pregnant polar bears retreat to dens in the colder months.

Polar Bear Family

Andrey Smirnov/AFP/Getty ImagesFemale polar bears stay with their cubs in the den for four to eight months. During this period, the mother fasts, then the whole family emerges from the den to hut for seals.

Swimming Underwater

Bill Pugliano/Getty ImagesThe polar bear's Latin name, Ursus maritimus, means "sea bear," and for good reason. Their front paws, which they use as paddles, are webbed, and they have been seen swimming as far as 200 miles from land. They need to be able to swim to travel between ice floes, which polar bears are dependent on for hunting.

Polar Bear Friends Walking

Nigel Treblin/AFP/Getty Images Polar bears are generous with their friends: Another polar bear might ask to share food with others of his kind by slowly approaching and rubbing his nose against the other bear's nose before the two chow down on a freshly killed seal.

Polar Bear Ice Sitting

Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images A polar bear can eat 100 pounds of ringed seal blubber in one sitting.

Climbing Polar Bear

Britta Pederson/AFP/Getty Images When hunting, their noses can detect a seal from up to a mile away.

Bloody Polar Bear

Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images Nevertheless, though polar bears spend more than 50 percent of their time hunting for food, fewer than 2 percent of their hunts are successful.

Running Youngster

Sean Gallup/Getty ImagesWhile polar bears almost always prefer a slow, ambling walk of just three or so miles per hour, these fearsome predators can sprint, over short distances, at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour.

Bears In London

Oli Scarff/Getty ImagesEngland's King Henry III had a collection of exotic animals that he kept in the Tower of London. He called one of this pets the “white bear;” historians agree that it was polar bear. The animal was a gift from King Haakon of Norway in 1252. A long leash was made for the bear so it could swim in the Thames and catch fish.

Polar Bear Portrait

Peter Steffen/AFP/Getty Images The Inuit people worship a God-like polar bear called Nanook. According to their mythology, he brings the Inuit luck during the hunt, and if hunters did not pay Nanook respect, they would catch no bears.

Polar Bear Walking Snow

Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images Polar bears live around the North Pole, in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Norway. Contrary to popular myths, that means penguins and polar bears have never encountered each other in the wild: Penguins reside in Antarctica while polar bears can only be found in the Arctic.

Wet Polar Bear

Pete Steffen/AFP/Getty Images Polar bears roll in the snow and go for dips in the ocean to keep clean, and, strangely enough, to stay cool. With a layer of blubber under their fur 4.5 inches thick, polar bears often overheat when they run, even if their Arctic habitat.

Polar Bear Ice Sheet

Melting ice floes present the biggest threat to the polar bear's survival. Due to insufficient ice floes, one polar bear recently swam for nine days straight — a record 426 miles — in search of food. She lost 22 percent of her body weight on the epic journey, and her cub.

Two Polar Bear Cubs

Christoff Stache/AFP/Getty ImagesIn 2011, polar bear biologist Ian Stirling observed male polar bears regularly preying on polar bear cubs — usually a rare occurrence. He hypothesized that seals have become less accessible as global warming causes ice floes in the Arctic sea to melt. Cut off from their regular diet, polar bears may be more prone to cannibalism.

Polar Bear Close Up

John Macdougall/AFP/Getty Images In 2008, the United States listed polar bears as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Scientists predict that two-thirds of the polar bear population could disappear by 2050 if climate change continues to melt ice floes.

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21 Facts To Take You Inside The Life And Mind Of An Elephant

From their impressive physicality to their extraordinary memories, it’s not much of a surprise that elephants have historically been objects of both popular fascination and even religious devotion. With that in mind, here are a few elephant facts you’ve surely never heard:

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Elephant Facts

Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images Elephants sometimes use their tusks in fights, but they're generally peaceful creatures. Most of the time, they use their tusks for digging, lifting objects, gathering food, and stripping bark to eat from trees. Elephants also have a dominant tusk, similar to the dominant hand a human uses to write.

Elephant Soccer Ball

Alexander Koerner/Getty ImagesAn elephant's trunk is actually a long nose containing more than 100,000 muscles.

Elephant Swim

Biju Boro/AFP/Getty ImagesAfrican elephants may have the best sense of smell in the animal kingdom; they can detect water sources from up to 12 miles away.

Elephant Ears

Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty ImagesElephants get warm very easily, so their huge ears work like fans which they use to cool down.

Elephants Grass

Diptendu Dutta/AFP/Getty Images Like dolphins and primates, elephants have shown signs of self-awareness, able to recognize themselves in a mirror.

Elephants Water Hole

Chris Jek/AFP/Getty ImagesElephants are social animals: They greet each other by stroking or wrapping their trunks together.

Elephants Cooling Down

Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images Elephants not only can swim, they're pretty good at it, too. It probably helps that they use their trunk as a snorkel.

Asian Elephant

Ishara S. Kodikara /AFP/Getty ImagesAsian elephants were once domesticated for battle, but are now captured for use in the tourism and entertainment industry. As you might guess, they are currently classified as an endangered species.

African Elephant

Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty ImagesAccording to the World Wildlife Fund, there may have been as many as three million African elephants in the early 20th century. Due to poaching, there are now around 470,000.

Elephant Babies

Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images Female elephants are pregnant for 22 months, the longest gestation period of any mammal.

Elephant Bath

Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty ImagesResearchers at the University of Sussex found that elephants can identify a person's gender and age purely based on the sound of his or her voice.

Cow And Calf Elephants

Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania found that elephants can identify one another as friends, family members, or strangers based on how they smell.

Elephant Dust

Money Sharma/AFP/Getty ImagesElephants have their own "sunscreen," and spray their bodies with sand to protect themselves from the sun.

Elephant Family

Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images Female elephants live in herds, with the oldest female elephant leading the group. Males leave their family around age 12 to form their own all-male groups.

Elephant Grazing

Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty ImagesElephants have big appetites and tiny sleep needs: Even though African elephants consume 160 liters of water and 300 kilograms of food a day, they only need to sleep three or four hours.

Elephant Herd

Tony Karumba/ AFP/Getty ImagesElephants really do have incredible memories: Scientific American reported that elephants can remember droughts and other extreme weather conditions, which allows them to return to places where they know there will be food or water. They can also remember elephants they've met in the past, and keep track of up to 30 other members of their family.

Elephant Mud

Tony Karumba/ AFP/Getty ImagesElephants maintain a strict skincare regimen. They take regular mud baths to retain moisture and protect from the harsh sun and insect bites.

Asian Elephant Water

Lakruwan Wanniarachchi /AFP/Getty ImagesA 2012 study found that an Asian elephant named Koshik figured out how to imitate human speech -- in this case Korean -- as a way to bond with his human trainers.

Elephant Tusks

Daniel Hayduk/AFP/Getty ImagesThe United Nations reports that 100 elephants are killed for their tusks each day; the ivory trade poses the biggest threat to elephants.

Male Elephant Loner

Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty ImagesElephants hold a sacred place in Eastern religious mythology. The Hindu god Ganesh is depicted as a man with an elephant's head, and according to another story, Buddha was reincarnated as a white elephant with six tusks.

Elephants Friendly

Lakruwan Wanniarachchi /AFP/Getty ImagesA study from the National Primate Research Center observed elephants comforting their distressed friends by stroking their trunks.

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