The Wooly Bear

      As the spring months move into summer in more "southern" regions, Alert is feeling the effects of the annual summer melt. When May turns to June, we move from the shoulder season into the summer season, meaning the temperature stayed above 0° for 24 hours, even still it rests at a damp and chilly 2°C. Although this week it was dipping back and fourth below 0°, we're still considered in the Summer Season. As I walk down the roads, water pours over the rocks in the culvert as the winters icy blanket is stripped from the rocky surface beneath.

     Everything is to the extreme here. Snow bank water falls descend over sharp shale pieces that litter the ground and the thick mud is almost unbearable. We wear "over boots" which basically protect your foot wear and eliminate tracking so much muck inside... absolutely required.

     On my adventure into the mist this weekend, a friend and I walked into the shadows of the fog a few kilometres away from station. While searching for some interesting mineral specimens I found something much better in my opinion... a caterpillar!  

     Not just any caterpillar though, a "Wooly Bear" caterpillar or more scientifically known as "Gynaephora groenlandica". It will grow into a moth found within the Arctic circle, in Greenland and Canada. It is best known for its very slow rate of development. In the past, it was estimated that it had a fourteen year life cycle from egg to adult moth. In it's caterpillar state, it has the ability to withstand temperatures below -60°C! The larvae degrade their mitochondria in preparation for overwintering and re-synthesize them in the spring, and each instar of the caterpillar takes about a year. Subsequent studies have revised the life-cycle duration to 7 yearsThe Arctic woolly-bear caterpillars are unique in their combination of fascinating adaptations to the polar extremes. They spend nearly 90% of their life frozen and only about 5% feeding on the tundra during the month of June; the remainder is spent in summer aestivation within hibernacula (protective cocoons).

Although the landscape is barren, life slowly is beginning to creep further and further north into Alert. Little wildlife lesson of the day :)