Southern Elephant Seals

What Animals Live in Antarctica?

What animals live in Antarctica? It’s cold, quiet, and snow and ice blanket every available surface. Antarctica is well known for how cold it is, which makes it hard for things to live there. This means that there is only a small number of animals that are able to live there. The average temperature is minus 56 degrees, making it difficult for animals to survive in the chilly weather. There are some animals that can survive the harsh Antarctic environment, so look below to learn more.


Whales of AntarcticaHumpback Whales

Photo Credit: Sylke Rohrlach

There are many kinds of whales that swim the cold waters of Antarctica. Orcas, blue whales, sperm whales, right whales, humpback whales and many more. They are highly intelligent, and hunt in groups called pods. They eat anything from krill to seals to sharks, and they hunt for food using echolocation. The whales make clicking noises that bounce off of anything around them, signaling when there is something nearby. This ability to use echolocation tells the whales whether the object close to them is food or a predator.

Due to the thick blubber incasing their large bodies, the whales can withstand the low temperatures. Whales, like other mammals, require oxygen and this means that they cannot fall asleep in the water or they will drown. They have adapted to their environment by forcing half their brain to stay awake while they sleep to make sure that they float on the water.

Southern Elephant Seals

Southern Elephant SealsSouthern Elephant Seals

Photo Credit: Liam Quinn

These creatures are easily recognizable by the odd shape of their nose. They spend the majority of their lives far out at sea, only coming to land to give birth and molt their skin. Southern elephant seals are also amazing divers. While in the water, they usually feed on squid but can also eat fish and crustaceans, like crabs or shrimp.

It is important to know that southern elephant seals are protected because of declining populations. In the 18th and 19th century, they were hunted for their oils and brought close to extinction.

Chinstrap Penguins

Chinstrap PenguinsChinstrap Penguin

Photo Credit: Christopher Michel

These penguins are named this due to the thin line of black feathers that line their chin from ear to ear. They are known for choosing one partner to breed with and lay on average two eggs a year. Penguin colonies are often huge, holding over 100,000 pairs in one spot. Unlike other penguins, chinstrap’s treat their chicks the same, and take care of them equally in an effort to have both survive. Like whales, chinstrap penguins eat krill and since there was an increase of krill in Antarctica over the last few years, there are more penguins there than ever before. Another type of Penguin that lives in Antarctica is the Emperor Penguin, the largest penguin of all.

Blue-eyed Shag

This bird is named for the blue ring it has around the outside of its eye! They are usually found in the colder parts of the Southern Hemisphere and also goes by the name of the Imperial Shag. Its diet mainly consists of fish, diving to a depth of almost 25 meters to reach them. There are many different sub-species of the blued-eyed shag and are usually distinguished by different features. The most noticeable, besides the blue ring around the eye, is their bright orange nasal crest and pink feet! They also have a white belly and neck with black feathers covering the rest of its body.

Insects and Spiders

In Antarctica, there are few animals, and even fewer insects that can survive. The cold temperatures halt plant growth and don’t allow for running water; this means that animals and insects can’t get the nutrients that they need. Those that do survive, like arthropods, which can be mites and springtails, as well as a few spiders and beetles, are not common on this continent. There are many varieties, whom eat dead plant material, but the only kind found there is called the wingless midge, a small fly.


Antarctic_krill_(Euphausia_superba)Antarctic Krill

Photo Credit: Uwe Kils

Believe it or not, Krill is just another word for shrimp! The particular Krill that live in Antarctica have black eyes and a shell that is reddish. They eat microscopic plants such as phytoplankton, which can give a slight green color to their digestive system. Normally, they grow up to about five centimeters long and weigh between 1-2 grams. Most Krill live for about five years.

As Krill grow, they collect into large groups called swarms and often make the water look orange due to their red color and so many of them being in the same place.

Fun Facts About Animals In Antarctica

  • Antarctica has no animals that live only on land.
  • Penguins are the only birds that can inhabit Antarctica all year round.
  • All the warm-blooded animals in Antarctica survive because of blubber.
  • Plants only grow in ice-free regions; only 2% of Antarctica is ice-free.
  • One of the most important animals around Antarctica is Krill.

More Interesting Information About Animals in Antarctica

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