The perception of the polar winter as a period in which organisms have to struggle for survival is common among people living almost exclusively outside the polar regions, even if sometimes in areas with winter resembling the polar winter. ... For arctic organisms, endemic to and wintering in the far North, the polar winter possibly has a different significance. For these organisms it is often a period of rest, during which they conserve energy and prepare for reproduction in the coming feeding season. Until the last decades of this century, we knew little about the significance of the polar winter for organisms that live there year-round. For migratory species it is obviously a rather intolerable season, but how resident species survive and live through the winter was unknown. ... The series of eight papers presented here ... stem from a multidisciplinary symposium organized by the Arctic Centre of the University of Groningen on the occasion of the 375th anniversary of this university of 1989. ... The guiding question of this symposium was: How do humans and their living resources survive the polar winter? As the resources are both terrestrial and marine, both are discussed when presenting organisms from different trophic levels. ... This series of papers concludes with a study of the successes and misfortunes of western Europeans wintering in the High Arctic in the 16th and 17th centuries and an article about Russian trappers during the 18th and 19th centuries wintering in Spitsburgen. ...
Many arctic species originated outside the Arctic and some of their physiological responses are similar to those in temperate latitudes. Unique adaptations to the Arctic have rarely been found. The recent influx of other species has, however, broken down reproductive barriers and gene flow has been stimulated. In extreme arctic environments, selection forces driving evolution are mainly of the physical environment and plant interactions are positive. Elsewhere, biotic factors, such as herbivory, are important and plant interactions become negative through competition. Physical selective forces operate in winter and summer. Low winter temperatures rarely affect arctic plants, but snow depth and duration influence species distributions. Deep and persistent snow deforms plants and limits the period of resource acquisition. Cryptogams are common in such snow beds. Little or no snow cover exposes plants to abrasion by wind-blown particles and desiccation. In such fell-field sites, deciduous species and xerophytes, such as evergreen cushion plants, are common. Arctic summers are short and developmental processes are extended beyond one growing season, with perennials predominating. Cushion plants efficiently increase their temperatures above ambient, while evergreen and deciduous ericaceous dwarf shrubs coexist and have complementary strategies for intercepting radiation in a low canopy. Tundra soils are generally infertile and may be disturbed by freeze/thaw cycles. Nutrients are conserved by cycling within shoots and between ramets within clones. Vegetative proliferation enhances the survival of young ramets, while physiological integration between ramets enables young ramets to forage across patchy environments. Negative plant-animal relationships are particularly important in the Subarctic. Periodic infestation of moth caterpillars defoliate large areas of mountain birch and stimulate increases in populations of their predators. Periodic population peaks of small rodents graze or kill much vegetation and they may moderate the dynamic structure of plant communities, as the plant species have different abilities to regenerate.
The willow ptarmigan, Lagopus lagopus, dwells in a vast area with a variety of climatic and biotic conditions. Populations from northeast Asia must cope with extremely low temperatures along with progressive depletion of food resources throughout the winter. Being unable to roost in the snow at -40 degrees C, a ptarmigan's daily life would cost 3.2-3.5 basal metabolic rate (BM), but by burrowing in snow for up to 21 hours per day, the bird saves at least 1.0 BM. To meet daily energy demands on a midwinter day a ptarmigan needs about 60 g of food (dry weight), consisting mostly of willow buds and twigs. Early in winter the diet contains 12-15% protein and 20-25% fiber, declining later to 7-8% protein and increasing up to 35% fiber. Nitrogen concentration, crucial for food digestibility, declines by half (from 0.35 to 0.18%) during the six winter months. Nitrogen also causes increased food consumption in a feedback pattern. Nevertheless, many birds lose body weight constantly. To recover losses they need a more nutritious diet after the snow starts to melt. Thus, the willow ptarmigan's adaptation to the polar winter appears as an individual balancing act within a few specific limits. Higher density of conspecific birds, colder winters and/or later springs may cause physiological damage to individuals, which eventually would lower the reproduction rate within the breeding population.
Data pertaining to the characteristics of an arctic fiord in winter were collected at the Polish Arctic Station situated in Hornsund at 77 degrees N, 15 degrees E on Svalbard. Winter in the fiord was defined in terms of climate (November-May), hydrology (January-March) and biology (November-March). The characteristic phenomena of winter in the fiord include a winter drop in the yearly biomass maximum to 0.1% for phytoplankton and 10% for zooplankton; a slowing of the growth rate among pelagic dominants such as Pseudocalanus elongatus and Calanus finmarchicus, as well as among the hyperbenthic dominants Onisimus littoralis and Mysis oculata; and heterotrophy or maintenance of metabolism among living phytoplankton cells found in the middle of the polar night in densities of 10-50 cells/L. Since the life cycles of invertebrates are highly seasonal, no winter breeders were observed and 90% of the examined species were breeding according to a K strategy. Migration takes place among all seabirds in the area, but about 1% of the eiders, fulmars and kittiwakes overwinter, feeding in the open water of polynyas and crevices in the fast ice.
Review of the developmental, behavioural and physiological adaptations of the ringed seal, Phoca hispida, to life in the arctic winter
Arctic, v. 44, no. 2, June 1991, p. 124-131, ill., 1 map
ASTIS record 30827
Ringed seals Phoca hispida, the smallest of the marine arctic pinnipeds, are one of only two seal species in the world adapted to life in the land-fast sea ice. The habitat is characterized by a stable ice platform forming in early winter and lies at latitudes subject to extreme low temperatures. The small body size of adults and semi-altricial pups are an unusual adaptation to cold, allowing ringed seals to use shelters that they construct in the snow overlying their breathing holes. These small subnivean structures act to hide adults and pups from predators, especially polar bears, Ursus maritimus, and arctic foxes, Alopex lagopus. It appears that dry lanugal pups could withstand the arctic cold without shelter, but pups that have been wetted become hypothermic and require shelter to regain thermoneutrality. Since female seals actively swim away with their pups from attacks on their birth lairs by foxes and bears, both the physical and the thermal protection of alternate subnivean lairs are important for the survival of the neonate. Weddell seals, Leptonychotes weddelli, resident in the land-fast ice of the Antarctic, are the ecological counterpart of the ringed seal. Their large body size is typical of the usual cold adaptive strategy of other polar phocid seals.
In this article physiological, behavioural and morphological adaptations by the arctic fox to low temperatures and food scarcity in winter are discussed. The arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) adapts to the low polar winter temperatures as a result of the excellent insulative properties of its fur. Among mammals, the arctic fox has the best insulative fur of all. The lower critical temperature is below -40 degrees C, and consequently increased metabolic rate to maintain homeothermy is not needed under natural temperature conditions. Short muzzle, ears and legs, a short, rounded body and probably a counter-current vascular heat exchange in the legs contribute to reduce heat loss. A capillary rete in the skin of the pads prevents freezing when standing on a cold substratum. By seeking shelter in snow lairs or in dens below the snow cover and by curling up in a rounded position, expanding only the best-insulated parts of the body, the arctic fox reduces heat loss. The arctic fox copes with seasonal fluctuations in food supply by storing fat and caching food items during summer and fall. Saving energy through decreased activity and decreased basal metabolic rate might also be an adaptation to food scarcity in winter.
This review deals with thermal, metabolic and hormonal responses of various human populations to natural or experimental acclimation. Modern people react to cold with shivering, increased metabolism and cutaneous vasoconstriction (metabolic response). Native people, such as Australian aborigines, Eskimos, arctic Indians and Lapps, who were regularly exposed to cold in their natural habitat, have been reported to exhibit less pronounced shivering during experimental cold exposure and experience a greater fall in body temperature (hypometabolic and hypothermic type of adaptation). Australian aborigines and traditional Korean divers have been shown to have low body heat conductivity (insulative type of adaptation). Modern Caucasians intensively exposed to prolonged cold may also develop hypothermic and insulative types of adaptation. Exposure to cold climate increases blood pressure, which may be a factor contributing to the greater mortality due to cardiovascular diseases and stroke observed in the winter. The secretion of the pineal hormone melatonin, which is believed to inhibit the secretion of a pituitary luteinizing hormone, is elevated during winter and decreased in summer. This leads to the higher conception rate observed during spring and summer.
In the late 16th and early 17th century ten English and Dutch winterings took place in northern regions in less than 100 years. The first wintering occurred in 1553, when the ship of the Englishman Hugh Willoughby became frozen in the Arzina River in northern Russia, and the last in this period took place when seven Dutch volunteers were left behind to winter in Smeerenburg in 1634. Between these two, eight other wintering attempts were undertaken. Some of these were involuntary, while others were voluntary and planned. Five of these winterings are here compared with one another to answer the question why some were successful while others failed. Besides the many practical problems, such as extremes of temperature, primitive housing and illness, the winters were confronted with psychological problems caused by isolation, overcrowding, boredom and a strange environment, with unknown noises and light phenomena. For the solution of the practical problems ingenuity and creatively were required and both faith and the daily practice of religion were important in tackling psychological problems and keeping diurnal rhythms going. These rhythms turned out to be very important during the polar night. The wintering group that successfully maintained its diurnal rhythm and remained active during the polar night had the best chance of surviving the polar winter.
Ways of surviving in the High Arctic environment are among the most interesting problems addressed by archaeological research concerning hunting groups operating in these areas. The Svalbard archipelago affords a unique opportunity for comparative studies of arctic survival with respect to representatives from two different European cultural centers: the hunters from northern Russia and the western European whalers. The present paper concentrates on the Russian way of dealing with the polar winter. Both the documentary sources and the elements of material culture recovered during archaeological explorations reveal a relatively high level of adaptation to arctic conditions.
Although the papers presented here do not have the pretension of exhaustively reviewing the adaptations enabling survival through the polar winter, the range of organisms covered nevertheless allows one to discern recurring themes. For the endotherms it is tempting to set the current views against the background of the generalizations arrived at by Scholander and his co-workers ... in their key papers cited repeatedly during the Life of the Polar Winter conference. ... We can ask why the paradigm of Newtonian cooling advanced at that time has been such a successful approach to the problem of cold adaptation and to what extent the conclusions based on the wide-ranging survey undertaken then are still valid today. ... The basic tenet of the Scholander view was that adaptation to arctic life primarily entailed the acquisition (or perfection) of effective insulation, thus allowing cold exposure without excessive costs. ... The vivid accounts of ongoing research presented during the symposium and in this issue underline the shifting emphasis away from relatively short-term incursions to the arctic environment to capture specimens for subsequent study towards long-term work by teams of investigators following individual animals over long periods (maintaining contact by an impressive array of telemetric devices). The challenge of the years ahead will be to trace the web of adaptation through the food chain by close collaboration among specialists. In the case of herbivory, cooperation between botanists and zoologists alluded to by Sonesson has already revealed the intimate links connecting animal numbers with their food supply and especially with the persistence of the preferred vegetation .... The close fit between the overall standing crop of vegetation and peak reindeer biomass across a range of arctic sites, even extrapolating to an accurate prediction of the carrying capacity of the sub-Antarctic island South Georgia, argues for the pervasive influence of food supply as against the traditional interpretation of populations kept in check by predators .... It is against this background that the exploitation patterns of man must be viewed. From the recent physiological work undertaken on the members of the Finnish polar expedition, it is reassuring to note that urban man has not lost the ability to acclimatize to the dramatic extent envisaged by Hammel (1964), and more surprises may be in store for us.
Julius von Payer was born near Teplitz in Bohemia. ... Due to his expertise on alpine glaciers, he was invited to join the German Polar Expedition of 1869-70, which worked in "new" areas in northeast Greenland. ... Payer and his friend naval Lieutenant Weyprecht thought that the area between Spitsbergen and Novaya Zemlya might offer a relatively ice-free zone to the north. Financed by Count Wylzeck, they chartered a small sailing vessel and during a favourable period in 1871 made a preliminary expedition in the area, reaching a maximal northern latitude of 78.5. Their next and last polar expedition, 1872-74, led to what might be called the "accidental" discovery of an archipelago of islands that they named Franz Josef Land, after their emperor. ... In September 1872 the [motorized sailing ship] Tegetthoff became ice bound and drifted northward over an irregular course. In August 1873 the southernmost island of Franz Josef Land was seen but could not be reached until October of the same year. Lieutenant Weyprecht commanded the ship and Payer led the sled expeditions that in early 1874 discovered the central portion of the island archipelago. ... Payer's sledge parties covered about 800 km, the northernmost point being 81 51 N. ... Their ship was still ice bound when the sledge parties returned. Some members of the expedition had died, including an old Norwegian whaling captain. In May, an expedition with sleds and three 60-m boats struck out for the depot left in 1871 on the island of Novaya Zemlya. Progress over the snow-covered ice was so slow that after eight days the leaders decided to await the breakup of the ice. It was mid-August before they were able to row and sail southward, covering the 300 km to Novaya Zemlya. Because of the land ice on the west coast of the island, they were unable to get to their depot and had to sail and row almost to its southern extremity before they were picked up by a Russian fishing vessel on 24 August 1874. ... Payer was not only an alpinist and explorer but also an artist. His book is illustrated with many drawings, two of which are reproduced here. Payer also made water-colour sketches in the Arctic. On his return from the North, Payer lived as a civilian in Paris until 1890, where he studied art. He then returned to Vienna and opened his own school of painting. He painted arctic landscapes based on sketches he had made during his expeditions. These were well received at several important exhibitions and he was, in fact, the first artist to depict the Arctic in colours. He died in Vienna in 1915.
Detterman was well known for his biostratigraphic studies of the Triassic through Tertiary age sediments throughout arctic and south-central Alaska and the Alaska Peninsula. He was also considered an authority on glaciation for the North Slope and the Alaska Peninsula. He wrote or co-authored more than 113 publications and maps. Several finished manuscripts still await publication by the USGS. Because of his large bibliography, only a few of his more important publications will be mentioned here. ...