what animals live in antarctica

What Animals Live in Antarctica: 10 Species

Antarctica is world famous for having some of the most extreme weather conditions on the planet. Some might think that they are too extreme to support life but some species still manage to find a way.

In fact, several record-holding species feed, breed, or live in and around the continent of Antarctica for a significant portion of the year. If you’re now thinking “what animals live in Antarctica”, look no further than this article to educate on just some of the amazing creatures that call this frozen wasteland their home.

10 Animals That Live in Antarctica

1. Weddell Seals

Weddell Seals

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Weddell seals are just one species of seal known to live in and around Antarctica. Unlike some seals, the Weddell seal is non-migratory, meaning that it doesn’t travel long distances at certain times of the year.

Instead, these animals prefer to sit on top of ice that forms on the waters attached to Antarctica’s land or in the water itself all year round. They are notable for the fact that they breed the farthest south of any other mammal.

Much isn’t known about these seals as they live around pack ice and don’t group together. The mothers go far south and store enough fat to quickly double the weight of their babies within 10 days of being born.

They can do this because the milk of Weddell seals is considered the richest of any mammal, made up of about 60 percent fat. Babies reach about 242 pounds within seven weeks of birth. Adults can reach up to 990 pounds.

2. Tardigrade

Tardigrade

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Tardigrades were popular for a long time as people realized how resilient these little animals are. They are often commonly known as water bears or moss piglets. They can be found in almost any moist environment. However, you aren’t ever likely to come across one.

Or at least, you won’t realize you have. These animals are microscopic, less than 1 millimeter in length. However, they are incredibly resilient. They have been found deep in the Antarctic, deep sea vents, and even volcanos. They can even survive in space, studies have shown.

They tend to prefer more specialized habitats, though scientists don’t know why or which habitats they tend to prefer specifically yet. There aren’t as many of these microscopic animals as you might expect in the Antarctic.

3. Sei Whale

Sei Whale

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Sei whales can be found in many parts of the world, primarily in subtropical, temperate, and subpolar parts of the ocean. They are most commonly found around Norway but have been found near the Antarctic as well.

While they don’t have a habit of going deep into the Antarctic regions, they will often be found right on the edge. However, it can be hard to tell what their habitat is as they don’t have common distribution and migration habits that they repeat.

Most whales tend to have pretty repeatable patterns that make it easy to track and understand them. However, Sei whales will stay in one area for a long time, before randomly leaving the place and not returning for upwards of a decade in some cases. Scientists don’t even know where these whales breed.

They are a fairly large whale species, reaching up to 64 feet in length, and can be up to 28 tons. They need over 2,000 pounds of food a day, and they mostly eat small animals like krill and zooplankton.

They are also fast despite their size, reaching 31 miles per hour for short distances. The populations of Sei whales were decimated at the peak of commercial whaling and they are still at only a third of what their population used to be.

4. Mites

Most insects don’t do well in the cold, but there is a species of mites that are found throughout the Antarctic Peninsula. The Antarctic mite is considered one of the most abundant insects in the world. There are 15 named and observed species, though there may be more yet unfound within the ice.

Mites are also the only native insect in the Antarctic that has been found so far.

Not much is known about them, but it seems that the multiple species found in the Antarctic tend to have more diversity than other mites. In some areas of the Antarctic, these mites are the largest predator at about one millimeter across.

These mites, small and red, and flightless midges can be the only two land predators within 500 miles. While there are penguins around, they tend to rely on the sea for their food and therefore don’t count as land predators.

They have been found to basically shut down their body’s processes during the winter to survive the cold, and then restart their bodies when it is warm enough.

5. Chinstrap Penguin

Chinstrap Penguin

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Chinstrap penguins are distinguishable from other penguins thanks to a stipe of black feathers under their chin. It is reminiscent of a strap to hold a hat on someone’s head, hence their name. They are possibly the penguins doing the best, with an estimated 7.5 million breeding pairs out there.

These penguins are small, generally around 27 inches in height, and only 10 pounds or so. Despite their small size, or maybe because of that, they are considered to be fairly aggressive, often taking over other penguin colonies. They are also fairly loud.

They are closely related to Adelie and the gentoo penguins. They tend to have a similar habitat as well, usually avoiding coasts and pack ice except around the Antarctic Peninsula. They can dive down to 230 feet, though they prefer to stay around 148 feet. Their dives are pretty short as well, lasting less than a minute.

6. South Polar Skuas

Skuas

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Skuas are birds that are often brown with sharp bills and claws on their feet. Two species frequent the Antarctic, but the south polar skuas tend to be the smaller of the two.

The South Shetland Islands in Antarctica are where this bird species frequents the most, especially during breeding and mating season. This is usually between October to March.

They are a fairly smart species and often manage to outsmart scientists trying to find out more about them. They have a long memory and are aggressive, so they won’t hesitate to attack someone they’ve had a run-in with before. Their most common attack is to dive-bomb people while screaming as loud as possible.

Skuas tend to prey on penguins, specifically their eggs and chicks. Scientists have already started to see problems with this, as penguins are breeding at different times of the year to fit the weather they need for their young to survive. This means that skuas often don’t have as much food around as they are used to before their breeding season.

7. Minke Whale

Minke Whale

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Though once considered one species, it has been determined that there are two species of minke whale, one of them being the Antarctic minke whale. They are the larger of the two species. They are considered to be a part of the rorqual whale group and are the smallest and most abundant of these whales.

Both can frequent Antarctica, but Antarctic minke whales specifically stay in the region and don’t cross north over the equator. These minke whales are fast, easily going 12 or 13 miles per hour.
They are also fairly small for being whales, only reaching 32 to 35 feet and 15 tons of adult weight. They weigh just under 900 pounds at birth.

They are generally solitary but have been seen to travel in small groups. They have often been found near Brazil, Argentina, Togo, Cape Province, and even Australia and New Zealand. In the spring, they tend to stay near the pack ice and areas with thick ice cover.

During the colder seasons, they often move a bit more north, but they have been found to occasionally get trapped in the ice and forced to stay in the Antarctic.

8. Gentoo Penguin

Gentoo Penguin

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Gentoo penguins are considered to be the third largest penguin species out there. They are around 35 inches in height and about 19 pounds. No one quite knows where the name comes from or why it was applied to these penguins.

They also don’t have a yearly migration cycle like many other penguins. Despite living in the Antarctic, they don’t breed in areas where there is snow or ice. Their nesting habitats tend to be around coastal plains, cliffs, and valleys.

Gentoo penguins also take cleanliness into account when picking a breeding spot. If their normal area gets too trampled or covered in waste, they will pick somewhere else next time. They are the fastest penguins, able to reach up to 22 miles per hour in the water.

Interestingly, the further these penguins are from the Antarctic Peninsula, the larger they are in both weight and height. Unlike most other penguins, they are doing well, growing in population, and in the space they take up. There are some areas where they are rapidly declining, though.

9. Leopard Seals

Leopard Seals

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Despite looking adorable, leopard seals are incredibly dangerous and skilled hunters. They thrive in the Antarctic and feast frequently on the penguins that dive into the water in search of food. However, they have also been found to feed on other seal species.

They have claws along their fins, and teeth that are just over two inches in length. They can also easily cut through the water at 25 miles per hour to grab their prey. However, they still pale next to sharks and orcas as far as the most dangerous predators.

What makes their threat unique though, is that they don’t just eat their prey. Many times, they prefer to play with it first, often letting penguins go and cutting off their escape while watching the penguin struggle to get back home.

They have even been known to attack people, taking them deep into the water and drowning them. However, sometimes they are kind to people, even treating them like cubs and bringing them food.

Leopard seals are the second largest species of seals, only beaten by the southern elephant seals. The females are often larger than the males and tend to get over 11.5 feet in length and weigh around 1,000 pounds.

10. Icefish

Icefish

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Icefish are a unique family of fish. There are a couple of hundred different species, but they tend to have a lot in common. For the most part, they have clear or see-through blood, with white hearts. This is because they have adapted to continue to thrive without the hemoglobin that makes blood red.

Most of them nest together, with one group of researchers finding over 60 million in one massive colony. They’ve been spotted around other areas in the Antarctic, but this was the first time they were found in such a large group.

They tend to clump together in areas where there are thermal upwellings and slightly warmer temperatures than in the surrounding area. Not much is known about these fish, but they are a great example of ways species will adapt to fit their surroundings and to extreme environments.

Another unique feature of icefish is that their faces are often compared to those of crocodiles, being long, and they also don’t have scales. This is to help them better absorb oxygen from the ocean.

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