Antarctica is the coldest place on Earth. With temperatures reaching a record low of -128 degrees Fahrenheit, constant strong winds and thick ice sheets that cover 99 percent of the continent, there are few species that can tolerate the harsh conditions. Despite this, it is still home to a small number of beautiful wildlife and a number of species of plants and vegetation.
The following is a look at the wildlife in Antarctica.
Plants and Vegetation
Vegetation in Antarctica is sparse. In fact, there are no trees or shrubs anywhere on the continent at all. There are, however, a large number of mosses, algae, and lichen that grow on the rocks and in the Antarctic Peninsula. In some places, rocks are bright colors as a result of the growths of lichens.
The Antarctic Peninsula, which has warmer climates (warmer being above freezing a good deal of the time) and is friendlier to vegetation than inland Antarctica, has three species of flowering plants. Most vegetation, however, resides on rocks or even inside rocks, where it is shielded from harsh conditions.
There are not many animals that can weather the harsh temperatures and winds of Antarctica. As a result, there are no land based mammals in Antarctica.
However, there are a few invertebrates that reside in Antarctica. These fascinating animals are tiny in size and are mites, ticks, and worms that can handle the low winter temperatures by becoming frozen in ice. Their bodies contain antifreeze, and they can stop all motion and functions while frozen. When it warms up, they are active again.
The majority of wildlife in Antarctica is migratory, residing in the oceans and coastal areas in the summer, then leaving again in the winter. Some of these species include:
• Whales. There are a number of whales that reside in the oceans surrounding Antarctica, feeding on the large amounts of krill that also live there. Some of the species that live around there include Killer whales, humpback whales, and sperm whales. Many whale-watchers boat around the Antarctic Peninsula to see these beautiful creatures. There used to be larger numbers of whales in the area, but whaling for blubber has significantly reduced the whale population. As a result, the waters around Antarctica have been declared official whale sanctuaries, with harsh penalties for those who hunt whales in the area.
• Penguins. The most famous wildlife species in Antarctica are the penguins, with common species being Adelie, Gentoo, Chinstrap, and Macaroni. Penguins nest on the shores of the Antarctic Peninsula in the winter. Tourists find the penguins in Antarctica fascinating; because there are very few predators on the continent, the penguins have no fear of mammals and will often come very close to tourists if they are curious enough.
• Seals. Antarctica has a large seal population in its waters, mostly because of the large amounts of krill and the lack of predators that are found in other areas of the world, such as the Arctic. They breed on the Antarctica ice surrounding the oceans and inhabit the waters the rest of the time. Most seals feed on the fish and krill in the area, except for Leopard seals, which feed on penguins, fish, and even other seals.
Antarctica, despite its frigid conditions, is home to a number of beautiful and fascinating creatures who have adapted to survive the continent’s conditions.