Ocean Currents

What is Your Favorite Arctic Animal?

Asking our Arctic experts the tough questions.

Sunset in the Arctic
© NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you probably know that I work with an amazing group of driven, talented people who care deeply about the Arctic. In our line of work, we spend most of our time working on complex regulatory mechanisms to address a rapidly melting Arctic and the industrial uses expanding in its newly accessible waters. While I find this work extremely rewarding, there are times I need to get my head out of the tough issues we’re tackling, take a step back and celebrate my colleagues and the creatures that motivate us.

Therefore, I recently interviewed several Arctic team members and asked them one extremely important question: What is your favorite Arctic creature and why? Here is what they said!

Whit Sheard and the Greenland Shark:


“The Greenland Shark is my favorite Arctic animal because they can live an astounding 300 to 500 years, making them the longest living vertebrate on earth. They are a fascinating apex predator that eat primarily fish but have also been found to consume entire reindeer!”

Whit Sheard
Director, International Arctic Program
Greenland shark, Northwest Territories, Canada
Greenland shark, Lancaster Sound, Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Canada. © Paul Nicklen/WWF

Andrew Hartsig and the Walrus:


“I think I am not alone in loving walrus because of their magnificent tusks and intriguing whiskers. Their tusks can be three feet long! And they can have from 400 to 700 whiskers, which not only look cool, but also help the walrus detect prey.”

Andrew Hartsig
Director, Arctic Program
© U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Becca Robbins Gisclair and the Ribbon Seal:


“Ribbon seals have a stunning pattern, which takes more than four years to develop. There are only three populations of ribbons seals in the entire world: one in the Bering Sea and two in the sea of Okhotsk.”

Becca Robbins Gisclair
Senior Director, Arctic Programs
© National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Fisheries

Henry Huntington and the Musk Ox:

Henry Huntington

“The muskox is a large Arctic hooved mammal. They look like nothing else, stand their ground when threatened, and produce the world’s best wool.”

Henry Huntington
Director, Arctic Science

Sarah Bobbe (myself) and the “dreaded head” Arctic brittle star:


“I had to throw in my own favorite Arctic animal to get some invertebrate representation. Gorgonocephalus arcticus, a type of brittle star that lives deep on the Arctic seafloor, is my favorite because of their out-of-this-world -appearance.

They have five arms that repeatedly branch into smaller and smaller subdivisions, giving them a medusa-like appearance. In fact, their name means “dreaded head” in Greek and refers to Medusa and her two sisters, whose hair was made of living snakes.”

Sarah Bobbe
Arctic Program Manager

Now I feel even more motivated to work to ensure healthy Arctic ecosystems for these creatures and the people that depend on them!

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