Antarctica, the southernmost continent and the coldest place on Earth is covered by ice over a mile thick. It is known for its harsh climate, with temperatures that can drop below -80 degrees Celsius. The continent, roughly twice the size of Australia, is located primarily in the Antarctic Circle, with the South Pole near its center.
Despite the severe conditions, Antarctica hosts an array of hardy wildlife. Its most famous residents are the penguins, with species like Emperor and Adélie making their home here. Seals, including the Weddell, crabeater and leopard seals, are also common, often seen lounging on the ice or hunting in the surrounding Southern Ocean. Whales, such as orcas and minke whales, navigate the frigid waters in search of krill, a tiny shrimp-like creature that forms the base of the Antarctic food chain.
However, due to its extreme conditions, Antarctica is mainly devoid of terrestrial mammals, plants, or permanent human inhabitants. Most of the continent’s “land” species are small invertebrates, such as mites and springtails, that survive in the ice-free coastal areas or on the few patches of moss and lichen that constitute the Antarctic “forests.”
The continent also hosts many migratory birds during the summer, including various types of petrels, skuas, and the South Polar skua. The only human presence comes from scientists residing temporarily in research stations scattered across the continent.
Protected by the Antarctic Treaty, the continent is devoted to peaceful scientific research and conservation, with a prohibition on military activity, mineral mining, nuclear testing, and nuclear waste disposal. These protective measures help to preserve Antarctica’s unique, fragile ecosystems and its status as a place for scientific exploration.
Discover Animals that Live in Antarctica: