Animals in Antarctica

Antarctica is the earth’s coldest place, with temperatures ranging between −10°C and -60°C. Yet, amidst all adversities, animal life in the Antarctic is unique, with most of the wildlife being extremophiles due to their ability to survive in adverse conditions. One could spot a few terrestrial and most marine and semi-aquatic animals here. Those living on the land are mainly spotted around the coastal areas. The only insect wholly living on the land in Antarctica is the wingless midge, the continent’s largest terrestrial animal.

Of the several penguin species, the Emperor penguin makes Antarctica its breeding ground even during winter. However, other species like gentoo and chinstrap are found in the Antarctic Peninsula’s northern tip in less harsh conditions.

Some animals, like the Arctic tern, can be found in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, migrating to and fro.

Antarctic wildlife, however, has been at risk of endangerment mainly due to human intervention that has peaked with the development of research stations and increased scientific activities. Another primary factor affecting the ways of life of Antarctic animals is climate change, which in its severe form, can cause significant population depletion. The introduced species, like rats brought to the continent by humans, have even threatened the nesting seabirds.

Animals in Antarctica

List of Animals That Live in Antarctica

Mammals

  • Antarctic Fur Seal
  • Antarctic Minke Whale
  • Blue Whale
  • Commerson’s Dolphin
  • Common Minke Whale 
  • Crabeater Seal
  • Fin Whale
  • Hourglass Dolphin
  • Humpback Whale
  • Killer Whale
  • Leopard Seal
  • New Zealand Sea Lion
  • Ross Seal
  • Sei Whale
  • Southern Elephant Seal
  • Southern Fur Seal
  • Southern Right Whale
  • Weddell Seal

Fish

  • Antarctic Cod
  • Antarctic Silverfish
  • Antarctic Spiny Plunderfish
  • Antarctic Toothfish
  • Crocodile Icefish
  • Mackerel Icefish
  • Patagonian Toothfish

Invertebrates

  • Antarctic Krill
  • Antarctic scallop
  • Antarctic Sea Urchin
  • Antarctic Sponge
  • Antarctic Springtail
  • Antarctic Sun Starfish
  • Colossal Squid
  • Ross Sea Jellyfish

Insects                                                               

  • Antarctic Midge

Birds

  • Adelie Penguin
  • Antarctic Giant Petrel
  • Antarctic Skua
  • Antarctic Tern
  • Arctic Tern
  • Black-browed Albatross
  • Blue-eyed Cormorant
  • Cape Petrel
  • Chinstrap Penguin
  • Eaton’s Pintail
  • Emperor Penguin
  • Gentoo Penguin
  • Grey-headed Albatross
  • Imperial Shag
  • Kelp Gull
  • King Penguin
  • Light-mantled Sooty Albatross
  • Macaroni Penguin
  • Magellanic Penguin
  • Magellanic Penguin
  • Snow Petrel
  • Snowy Sheathbill
  • South Georgia Pintail
  • South Polar Skua
  • Southern Fulmar
  • Southern Rockhopper Penguin
  • Wandering Albatross

Adaptations of the Animals of Antarctica

Physical Adaptations

  • The emperor and king penguins the first and second largest of penguin species can endure the chilling temperatures of their surroundings all because of their huge size that helps retain heat.
  • Several animals and birds of Antarctica may have dense fur or even feathers that are water-repellant, serving as an insulator against the chilling cold. For e.g. the four-layered overlapping feathers in the emperor penguins safeguards them from the wind. On the other hand, the furry undercoat of the Southern fur seal and Antarctic fur seal helps keep the mammals warm.
  • Blubbers mostly seen in whales and seals, and even some penguin species are layers of fat with a function similar to the furs and feathers, serving as heat insulators.
  • Powerful eyesight is another key adaptation in most Antarctic animals. The presence of increased rod cells allow visibility in low light, while lesser number of cone cells help identifying various colors. They even have big pupils that get bigger when it is dark, helping lighter enter, resulting in a clearer vision.
  • The Antarctic krill has the unique ability of downsizing their body during scarcity of food. Shrinking the size of their body helps them use the proteins of their body when they are starving.

Behavioral Adaptations

  • Most penguin species like the Emperor penguins engage in their customary huddle. In this way, they conserve heat by sharing each other’s body warmth. This gesture minimizes heat loss to about 50%, helping them thrive in severely low temperatures.
  • Migratory behavior is noticed in several birds of Antarctica, moving up to warmer places in freezing temperatures. The Arctic tern migrates for over 2000 miles each year staying in the Arctic region when the northern hemisphere experience summer, and Antarctic region during summer in the southern hemisphere.

FAQs

Q. What are the dangerous animals of Antarctica?

A. Antarctic fur seal, Leopard seal, Killer whale

Q. What animals in the Antarctica are endangered?

A. Blue Whale, Magellanic Penguin, Sei Whale, Fin Whale

Q. Are there polar bears in Antarctica?

A. No; they mostly live in the frozen terrain of the Arctic region.

Q. How many animals live in Antarctica?

A. Around 235 species of mammals, fish, birds, and invertebrates.