A coniferous forest is characterised by conifer trees, which bear needles and cones. The largest land biome in the world, known as taiga or the boreal forest, is a group of coniferous forests spanning North America, northern Europe and northern Asia. This biome roughly forms a ring around the northern hemisphere, just below the tundra. It is home to a distinctive group of animals that varies widely from place to place, as the biome encompasses multiple continents.
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The coniferous forest biome is a cold and rugged landscape. Temperatures routinely average below freezing six months out of the year and can dip down to minus 65 degrees Fahrenheit in winter. Even in summer, temperatures may fall to 0-6.667 degrees Celsius. These harsh conditions mean that some animals only migrate here in the summer and the ones that stay are hardy and adapted to cold, snowy weather. Even so, the taiga can be a difficult place to survive and find enough food.
Several mammals inhabit the coniferous forest biome, including moose, elk, caribou, deer, wild pigs, American black bears, grizzly bears, bobcats, Canadian lynx, grey wolves, wolverines, red foxes, snowshoe hares, beavers and river otters. These animals survive on plants, prey or both. Many animals have special adaptations that allow them to survive in the coniferous forest biome. Bears hibernate during the long, harsh winter while the bobcat's fur changes from brown and spotted in the summer to white in the winter for camouflage.
The birds of the coniferous forest biome subsist mainly on rodents, insects, berries or fish. Bald eagles, golden eagles, long-eared owls, ospreys and peregrine falcons call the taiga home, but many birds migrate south during the winter. Nearly half the birds in North America migrate to the coniferous forest biome for part of each year. The endangered spotted owl is a well-known taiga creature that has received lots of attention due to efforts to save the species by conserving its habitat.
The coniferous forest biome is also inhabited by insects, fish and a few amphibian and reptile species. The climate is inhospitable to most reptiles and amphibians, who rely on external heat sources to regulate their body temperature. The species that do survive there tend to hibernate underground or underwater to keep their temperatures stable and may even freeze and thaw during hibernation. Thousands of species of insects, many still undescribed by scientists, and hundreds of species of fish make up a vital part of the food chain and are prey to other taiga animals.
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