Why Are There No Arctic Reptiles?

Reptiles do not produce their own heat, but instead rely on heat sources in the environment. In frigid settings, "cold-blooded" animals like snakes and frogs simply never warm up. No reptile has evolved to survive the rigours of Arctic climate – but that is not to say that it is impossible! In fact, it is likely that at least a few reptile contemporaries of the dinosaurs managed to survive through conditions similar to that of the present day Arctic.

There is one snake, the common garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis, whose distribution extends as far north as the southern border of tundra. This animal has an incredible ability to withstand low temperatures. It can tolerate temperatures of -5C without freezing. When temperatures drop lower than this, it can survive with up to 40% of its body fluids turned to ice!

Although there are no true Arctic reptiles, there are many other kinds of animals that do inhabit the "top of the world", including a bat, bumblebees, and birds like the snowy owl. The waters are home to crustaceans, starfishes, anemones, jellyfishes, and a wide range of fishes. Many of these life forms are strikingly beautiful, unique, and often bizarre! An exploration of Canada's Polar Life is sure to reveal some surprises.