Facts about the animal kingdom

What Animal Lives in South Pole?

Nick A. Romero
By Nick A. Romero, Biologist and environmental educator. April 1, 2024
What Animal Lives in South Pole?

Antarctica is a place on Earth unlike any other, with its enormous ice sheets, majestic glaciers, and surreal scenery. Although the climate on this southernmost continent is harsh and cruel, it nevertheless sustains an incredibly rich and diversified biosphere. Animals in the Antarctic have developed amazing tactics to withstand the harsh cold, powerful winds, and scarcity of supplies in this frozen realm.

In the following AnimalWised article, we will explore 30 Antarctic animals, as well as their remarkable adaptations that allow them to thrive in the extreme polar environment. We'll also explore their unique characteristics and conservation status


  1. Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba)
  2. Leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx)
  3. Colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni)
  4. Southern royal albatross (Diomedea epomophora)
  5. Emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri)
  6. Adelie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae)
  7. Antarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus gazella)
  8. Southern elephant seal (Mirounga leonina)
  9. Antarctic dragonfish (Akarotaxis nudiceps)
  10. Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii)
  11. Other animals of the South Pole
See more >>

Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba)

Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) are small crustaceans found throughout the Southern Ocean, including the waters surrounding Antarctica. These shrimp-like invertebrates, typically measuring 5-6.5 centimeters (2 to 2.6 inches) and weighing around 2 grams (0.07 ounces), play a critical role in the marine ecosystem. They function as filter feeders, primarily consuming phytoplankton – microscopic algae that forms the base of the Southern Ocean food web. Krill can also supplement their diet with small zooplankton.

The Antarctic krill is known for its fascinating behavior of forming immense swarms, sometimes numbering in the billions of individuals. These swarms can be so massive that they are visible from space. This unique behavior not only serves as a defense mechanism against predators but also plays a crucial role in nutrient cycling and ecosystem dynamics in the Southern Ocean.

Despite their vast population, currently classified as "Least Concern" by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Antarctic krill face potential threats from climate change and fishing pressures.

What Animal Lives in South Pole? - Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba)

Leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx)

The leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx) is a formidable apex predator inhabiting the Southern Ocean around Antarctica and nearby islands. Belonging to the true seal family (Phocidae), these animals are the largest Antarctic seals. Males typically reach 3 meters (9.8 feet) in length, while females can grow even larger, exceeding 3.8 meters (12.5 feet). Their sleek, elongated bodies with dark gray backs and spotted bellies make them agile hunters in the water.

Unlike most seals, leopard seals are not restricted to a diet of krill. They are opportunistic feeders, utilizing their speed and sharp teeth to capture penguins, squid, and even other seal species. In fact, they are one of the few seal species known to actively hunt warm-blooded prey, such as penguins and other seals. This unique dietary flexibility allows them to thrive in the harsh Antarctic environment.

Despite their current "Least Concern" status by the IUCN, leopard seals face potential threats.

What Animal Lives in South Pole? - Leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx)

Colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni)

The colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni) reigns supreme as one of the largest invertebrates on Earth. These elusive denizens of the Southern Ocean primarily dwell in the deep sea, with confirmed sightings occurring at depths of up to 1,000 meters (3,280 feet).

Colossal squids boast an impressive size, with estimates suggesting they can reach lengths of 12 to 14 meters (39 to 46 feet) and weigh a staggering 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds).

Their massive bodies are equipped with the largest eyes ever recorded for an invertebrate, likely aiding them in navigating the darkness of the deep sea. Furthermore, their long, whip-like tentacles are armed with sharp hooks and suckers, perfectly adapted for capturing prey.

Despite their immense size, much remains a mystery about colossal squids. Their deep-sea habitat and elusive nature make them incredibly difficult to study. While their diet is believed to consist primarily of fish, other squid, and possibly even small marine mammals, limited observations make it challenging to definitively understand their feeding habits.

The colossal squid's conservation status is currently unknown. Due to the lack of data on their population size and potential threats, it's difficult to assess their vulnerability.

What Animal Lives in South Pole? - Colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni)

Southern royal albatross (Diomedea epomophora)

The southern royal albatross (Diomedea epomophora) is a large seabird inhabiting the southern oceans. Found primarily around islands and coastal areas of South America (Argentina, Chile), Africa (South Africa), and Australia, their breeding range excludes Antarctica. Unlike some albatross species, they prefer wind-exposed islands free from land predators for nesting, rather than mainland grassland environments.

Southern royal albatrosses boast an impressive wingspan, averaging over 3 meters (nearly 10 feet), making them one of the largest seabirds globally. These long, narrow wings are well-suited for their life at sea. In fact, These birds are masters of dynamic soaring, a technique where they use the wind gradient above the ocean to gain lift and energy, allowing them to travel thousands of kilometers with minimal effort. Their plumage is predominantly white, with a pink beak.

The diet of southern royal albatrosses consists mainly of squid and fish, which they capture by snatching them from the water's surface. They play a significant role in the marine ecosystem by helping regulate prey populations.

The IUCN Red List classifies the southern royal albatross as "Least Concern."

What Animal Lives in South Pole? - Southern royal albatross (Diomedea epomophora)

Emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri)

Emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) are the largest penguin species, known by their black and white plumage and impressive size, reaching up to 1.32 meters (4.3 feet) in height. Unlike most penguins that breed on land, emperor penguins uniquely utilize stable sea ice and ice shelves for their colonies.

These birds endure some of the harshest conditions on Earth to breed during the Antarctic winter. Male emperor penguins are tasked with incubating the egg, balancing it on their feet and keeping it warm by covering it with a flap of skin called the brood pouch, while the female goes off to feed in the ocean. During this period, the males may fast for up to two months, relying solely on their stored fat reserves.

With an estimated population of around 800,000 breeding pairs, emperor penguins are currently classified as "Near Threatened" by the IUCN. This is due to the ongoing threats posed by climate change, which can disrupt sea ice formation and food availability in their habitat.

What Animal Lives in South Pole? - Emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri)

Adelie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae)

Found in Antarctica and surrounding islands, Adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) thrive on ice-free rocky coasts with easy access to the ocean. These black and white penguins are relatively small, averaging around 69 cm (27 inches) tall and weighing 3.6-5 kg (7.9-11 pounds). Unlike most penguins that breed on land, Adélie penguins favor these rocky shores for their colonies.

Despite their somewhat clumsy appearance on land, Adélie penguins are incredibly skilled swimmers, capable of reaching speeds of up to 8 miles per hour (13 kilometers per hour). They use their streamlined bodies and powerful flippers to navigate through the water with impressive agility, allowing them to efficiently hunt for their prey and evade predators.

Despite their large population, Adélie penguins are classified as "Near Threatened" by the IUCN. Climate change poses a significant threat, as it can disrupt sea ice formation and krill availability.

While penguins are iconic in Antarctica, did you know they live in other parts of the world too? Read on to discover the surprising range and diversity of these amazing birds.

What Animal Lives in South Pole? - Adelie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae)

Antarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus gazella)

Antarctic fur seals (Arctocephalus gazella) are adaptable pinnipeds, inhabiting the sub-Antarctic islands surrounding the Southern Ocean. While their range extends to areas like Argentina and South Africa, they primarily breed on these islands.

Antarctic fur seals exhibit a clear sexual dimorphism, with males significantly larger than females. Males can reach lengths of 1.8 meters (5.9 feet) and weigh up to 133 kg (293 pounds), sporting a darker face and grayish-brown fur. Females are smaller, averaging 1.3 meters (4.3 feet) and 34 kg (75 pounds), with lighter fur and a characteristic light neck/chest area.

These opportunistic feeders are well-suited to their environment. These seals can dive to impressive depths of up to 200 meters (656 feet) and remain submerged for extended periods, typically between 7 and 10 minutes. During these dives, they hunt for prey such as fish, squid, and krill.

One of the reasons for their "Least Concern" status on the IUCN Red List is their historically large population. However, it's important to note that past hunting pressures significantly reduced their numbers.

What Animal Lives in South Pole? - Antarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus gazella)

Southern elephant seal (Mirounga leonina)

Southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) exhibit a circumpolar distribution, inhabiting the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic regions. Their range extends to coastlines of Argentina, Chile, and other areas, primarily for breeding and molting. These pinnipeds are the largest members of the true seal family (Phocidae) and the largest non-cetacean marine mammals.

Southern elephant seals exhibit pronounced sexual dimorphism. Males reach enormous sizes, exceeding 6 meters (20 feet) in length and reaching weights of up to 3,600 kilograms (3.6 tons). In contrast, females are considerably smaller, typically measuring around 2 meters (6.6 feet) in length and weighing up to 900 kilograms (2,000 pounds). Their fur coloration varies across gray and brown tones.

Southern elephant seals are adept predators, primarily feeding on squid and various fish species. These seals hold the record for the deepest recorded dive among marine mammals, reaching depths of up to 2,133 meters (7,000 feet). This incredible diving prowess allows them to access food sources in the deep ocean that may be unavailable to other predators

The IUCN Red List currently classifies southern elephant seals as "Least Concern." However, ongoing monitoring of their populations is important due to potential future threats like climate change and habitat disturbances.

Want to dive deeper into the world of seals? Our next article explores the amazing variety of seal species found across the globe.

What Animal Lives in South Pole? - Southern elephant seal (Mirounga leonina)

Antarctic dragonfish (Akarotaxis nudiceps)

The Antarctic dragonfish (Akarotaxis nudiceps) is a fascinating deep-sea fish inhabiting the Southern Ocean waters surrounding Antarctica. These slender fish dwell in the dark abyss, typically found at depths between 370 and 915 meters (1,214 to 3,002 feet). Their average length is around 30 centimeters (12 inches).

Antarctic dragonfish exhibit a range of color variations, but they are generally dark-colored, often with a brownish hue. This dark pigmentation likely helps them camouflage in their deep-sea environment. One of their most interesting features is the lack of a visible swim bladder, an organ that helps most fish regulate buoyancy. This adaptation allows them to remain neutrally buoyant in the high-pressure environment of the deep sea.

Unfortunately, due to the challenges of studying deep-sea ecosystems, there is not enough data available to assess the conservation status of the Antarctic dragonfish on the IUCN Red List.

What Animal Lives in South Pole? - Antarctic dragonfish (Akarotaxis nudiceps)

Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii)

Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) hold the distinction of being the southernmost breeding mammals on Earth. They inhabit the Antarctic sea ice and surrounding waters, perfectly adapted to the harsh polar environment.

Weddell seals boast a streamlined body shape, typically reaching up to 3.5 meters (11.5 feet) in length. A thick layer of blubber provides essential insulation against the frigid temperatures, while their dark fur aids in absorbing heat from the sun.

The playful nature of Weddell seals is another fascinating aspect of their behavior. They are often observed lounging on the ice or interacting with each other in the water. This characteristic curiosity can even extend towards humans, making them a popular sight for tourists visiting Antarctica.

The IUCN Red List currently classifies Weddell seals as "Least Concern."

What Animal Lives in South Pole? - Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii)

Other animals of the South Pole

We've just scratched the surface of the South Pole's incredible wildlife. Now, let's delve into some of the other animals that inhabit this region:

    • Antarctic midge (Belgica antarctica)
    • Blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus)
    • Chinstrap penguin (Pygoscelis antarcticus)
    • Gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua)
    • Antarctic petrel (Thalassoica antarctica)
    • King penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus)
    • Cape petrel (Daption capense)
    • Kelp gull (Larus dominicanus)
    • Southern polar skua (Stercorarius antarcticus)
    • Snowy sheathbill (Chionis albus)
    • Wilson's storm petrel (Oceanites oceanicus)
    • Southern giant petrel (Macronectes giganteus)
    • Ross seal (Ommatophoca rossii)
    • Crabeater seal (Lobodon carcinophagus)
    • Killer whale (Orcinus orca)
    • Magellanic penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus)
    • Wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans)
    • Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus)
    • Southern right whale (Eubalaena australis)
    • Antarctic silverfish (Pleuragramma antarcticum)

    Having explored some of Antarctica's incredible wildlife, let's journey to another extreme environment and discover the fascinating animals that thrive in the world's hottest deserts.

                                        If you want to read similar articles to What Animal Lives in South Pole?, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

                                        • Animal Diversity Web. (2020). Available at: https://animaldiversity.org/
                                        • IUCN. (2024). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2023-1. Available at: https://www.iucnredlist.org

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                                        What Animal Lives in South Pole?