Can animals live in ice?

Can animals live in ice?

There are animals that live on the ice and under the ice, but are there animals that can live in the ice?

Ice is frozen water. Sea ice is less compact than freshwater ice. Sea ice, freshwater river ice, and pond ice have specific thicknesses – the ice floats on the surface of the water and it does not extend to the bottom of the water. This means that animals can live under the ice.

On the ice

The Penguin, a flightless bird in the Spheniscidae family, can live on the ice. The Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus), a large carnivorous mammal, lives on the ice in the North Pole. To adapt to living on ice, the Penguin and the Polar Bear have fur or feathers, and a thick layer of high body fat to keep them warm.

Under the ice

Some animals have anti-freeze proteins that prevent water in the cells in their body from crystalising and turning into ice – so they can live under the ice. The Winter Flounder (Pseudopleuronectes americanus) is a flatfish in the Pleuronectidae family. The Winter Flounder has anti-freeze proteins that enable it to swim under the ice in the cold water. The Eelpout is a long eel-like fish in the Zoarcidae family. It can live under the ice too, in arctic regions. 

The Orca is a mammal, related to the dolphin, that can live under the ice around Alaska. It has a thick layer of body fat. It also eats a lot to give it energy. 

In the ice

Small single-celled algae, bacteria, and other microbes can live in sea ice.

The Wood Frog spends 7 months each year frozen in the ice. The Wood Frog (Lithobates sylvaticus or Rana sylvatica) is an amphibian in the Ranidae family from Alaska in North America. It lives in freshwater pools in wetlands and swamps. At the start of winter, some frogs migrate from the area, but others stay in the freezing conditions. The water cells in their body turn into ice. About 66% of the Wood Frog’s body turns into ice. 

When the water cells inside their body turns into ice, it looks like the Wood Frog is dead. Its heart stops beating and its blood stops flowing. When the winter ice begins to thaw, the Wood Frog thaws too, and they hop away to look for food. 

Photographer: Martina Nicolls


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