Animals in Antarctica List
Antarctica is the coldest and most inhospitable continent on planet Earth. In fact, the coldest temperature ever recorded on Earth was -90 ºC at Antarctica's Vostok station. Contrary to this intense cold , there are also relatively warm regions in Antarctica, such as the Antarctic Peninsula, where temperatures can reach around 0 ºC. But not only is Antarctica a fascinating place geographically, but zoologically too!
Would you like to find out more about Antarctica's enchanting fauna and flaura? If so, this AnimalWised article is for you. Keep reading here and discover our full list of Antarctic animals, facts and more!
Animals in Antarctica
Antarctic animal adaption to temperature stress are governed, primarily, by two rules. The first rule, Allen's rule, states that endoderm animals are more ‘‘rounded and compact’’. The second rule, Bergmann's rule, states that with the intention to regulate heat loss, animals that live very cold areas are larger in size in comparison to those that live in warmer climates. For example, penguins that live in the south pole are larger than tropical penguins.
To survive this freezing climate, Antarctic and Arctic animals have adapted over time with an accumulation of large amounts of fat under the skin to avoid heat loss. These animals either have incredibly thick skin or dense hair with an insulating layer, which allow them to retain well-needed heat.
During the colder winter seasons, some animals, especially birds, migrate to warmer areas.
Animals that live in Antarctica are mainly aquatic, such as seals, penguins, other birds and some marine invertebrates and cetaceans.
Some of the most common examples of Antarctic animals and plants, which we will be discussing in detail, include:
- Emperor penguin
- Leopard seal
- Weddell seal
- Crabeater Seal
- Ross seal
- Antarctic Petrel
Facts about Antarctica
You may be wondering, what about polar bears? A common misconception, largely due to fiction and movies, is that polar bears and penguins live together. This, however, could not be further from the truth. Polar bears live in the Arctic (only), while penguins live Antarctica. But, why are there no polar bears in Antarctic? Antarctica is surrounded by water and there are no terrestrial predators present. In addition, due to the fact that polar bears are descendants of the North American brown bear, there would have been no geographical way in which they could’ve reached the south pole, especially because they would have struggled to survive the warm tropics on the way. Penguins would also experience extreme difficulty surviving the Arctic. Not only would they fall prey to hungry polar bears, but their feeding and breeding requirements would be largely affected. For more, we recommend reading our article where we discover fascinating Arctic animal facts.
In addition, did you know that when it comes to plants in Antarctica, there are no trees or shrubs. Only two species of flowering plant are found in Antarctica:
- Antarctic hair grass
- Antarctic pearlworth
The rest of the antarctic plants are made up of algae, mosses, liverworts and microscopic fungi.
But, which is the largest animal in Antarctica? Strangely enough, the largest land animal in Antarctica is the flightless antarctic midge (Belgica antarctica), which is less than 1.3cm in length, crazy right!?
1. Emperor penguin
First on tour list of antarctic animal facts is the Emperor penguin Antarctica (Aptenodytes forsteri), endemic to Antarctica. The emperor penguin Antarctica, due to a major decrease in population as a result of climate change, are classified as ‘near threatened.’ In addition, they are both the tallest and heaviest of all penguin species.
Emperor penguins mainly feed on Antarctic ocean fish, but are also known to eat krill and cephalopods. They have an annual reproduction cycle whereby colonies are formed between March and April. Did you know that emperor penguins are monogamous? Meaning that they only choose one mate per mating season. Once the eggs have been laid, they are passed to the male for an incubation period while the female returns back to sea to feed.
For more about penguins, we recommend reading our article where we discuss, ‘‘Where do penguins live?’’
Although not an antarctic ‘animal’ per se, we cannot leave out the Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) from this list of antarctic animals. The Antarctic krill forms the base of food for the entire Antarctic food web. This small malacostraca crustacean lives in swarms of more than 10 kilometers in length. Its distribution is circumpolar, although its largest populations are found in the South Atlantic, near the Antarctic Peninsula.
Did you know that krills can shrink in size when they feel threatened, and when eaten by penguins, can turn their poop pink?
3. Leopard seal
Leopards seal Antarctica (Hydrurga leptonyx) are distributed along the Antarctic and subantarctic waters. Leopard seal females are larger than males, reaching up to 500 kilograms of weight. The young usually are usually birthed on the ice between November and December and are weaned at only 4 weeks of age.
Leopard seals are solitary animals and couples copulate on sea ice between November and march. Leopard seals are famous for being great penguin hunters but they also feed on krill, other seals, fish, cephalopods, etc. An amazing fact about this Antarctic seal is that they ‘sing’ underwater, not much is known about this ‘singing’ but it is said to be linked to breeding.
If you find seals as interesting as we do, we recommend reading our article where we list the different types of seals around the world.
4. Weddell seal
Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) have circumpolar distribution throughout the Antarctic Ocean. Some solitary individuals, however, have been spotted on the South African coast, New Zealand or South Australia.
As in the previous case, weddell seal females are larger than the males, although their weight fluctuates drastically in breeding season. These antarctic animals breed in seasonal ice or on land, which allows for colonies to form and return each year to the same place for mating.
One of the most incredible weddel seal facts is that they live on seasonal ice, making holes with their own teeth to access water. This habit does, however, cause rapid teeth wear which can shorten a seal’s life expectancy.
5. Crabeater Seal
The presence or absence of crabeater seals (Lobodon carcinophaga) in the Antarctic continent largely depends on the fluctuations of the seasonal ice. Crabeater seals, also known as the krill-eater, are the most social of all Antarctic seals and live in the pack-ice zone which surrounds Antarctica.
Crabeater seals, contrary to what their name may suggest, do not actually feed on crab. A crabeater’s diet is made up of 95% krill. Another fun crabeater seal fact is that one of its main predators has actually already been mentioned on this antarctic animals list, do you know which one it may be? Yes, the leopard seal!
6. Ross seal
Another of the seals on this Antarctic animals list is the Ross seal (Ommatophoca rossii), distributed in a circumpolar way throughout the Antarctic continent.
These seals are the smallest of the four Antarctic seal species, weighing only 216 kilograms. Ross seal individuals can spend several months in the open ocean without ever approaching land. Ross seals are a monogamous seal species that almost never leave the Antarctic ocean.
7. Antarctic Petrel
The Antarctic petrel (Thalassoica antarctica) are distributed along the entire container coastline, forming part of the Antarctic fauna. Antarctic petrel can, however, occasionally be seen in Australian and New Zealand, although not very common.
Antarctic petrel feed mainly on krill and other crustaceans.
Antarctica animals: facts
All the these Antarctic animals are linked, one way or another, to the ocean. Other animals which make up our antarctic animals list include:
- Alcyonacea (Gorgonians)
- Antarctic silverfish (Pleuragramma antarctica)
- Antarctic starry skate (Amblyraja georgiana)
- Antarctic tern (Sterna vittata)
- Antarctic prion (Pachyptila desolata)
- Antarctic Minke whale or Southern mink whale (Balaenoptera bonaerensis)
- Southern sleeper shark (Somniosus antarcticus)
- Southern fulmar (Fulmarus glacialoides)
- Brown skua or Antarctic skua (Stercorarius antarcticus)
- Antarctic horsefish (Zanclorhynchus spinifer)
Antarctic animals: endangered
According to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), there are several animals in danger of extinction in Antarctica. The Antarctic blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus intermedia)is a critically a endangered Antarctic species that has decreased 97% from 1926.
Additional Antarctic endangered animals include:
- Sooty Albatross (Phoebetria fusca): this species is endangered due to commercial fishing, loss of habitat, predators and pollution.
- Northern royal albatross (Diomedea sanfordi): is currently classified as endangered due to extreme storms caused by climate change.
- Gray-headed Albatross (Talasarche chrysostoma): In the last 90 years there has been a rapid rate of decline among this species caused by climate change and commercial fishing.
For more, we recommend reading our article where we list the 10 animals in danger of extinction in the world.
If you want to read similar articles to Animals in Antarctica List, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.
- BirdLife International 2018. Aptenodytes forsteri. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T22697752A132600320.
- BirdLife International 2018. Diomedea sanfordi. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T22728323A132656392.
- BirdLife International 2018. Phoebetria fusca. La Lista Roja de Especies Amenazadas 2018 de la UICN: e.T22698431A132645596.
- BirdLife International 2018. Thalassoica antarctica. La Lista Roja de Especies Amenazadas 2018 de la UICN : e.T22697875A132610289.
- BirdLife International 2018. Thalassarche crisostoma. La Lista Roja de Especies Amenazadas 2018 de la UICN: e.T22698398A132644834.
- Cooke, J.G. 2018. Balaenoptera musculus ssp. intermedia. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T41713A50226962.
- Hückstädt, L. 2015. Hydrurga leptonyx. La Lista Roja de Especies Amenazadas de la UICN 2015: e.T10340A45226422.
- Hückstädt, L. 2015. Lobodon carcinophaga. La Lista Roja de Especies Amenazadas de la UICN 2015: e.T12246A45226918.
- Hückstädt, L. 2015. Ommatophoca rossii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T15269A45228952.