Are you planning to go on a cruise around Antarctica? There are many things that await you on your travels, and it’s not just the amazing view and culture. Many animals take residence in Antarctica, and some of them are as follows.
5. Leopard Seal
The leopard seal got its name based on its skin spots that resemble that of the big cats. With its only predator being the killer whale, this vicious predator eats almost anything – chasing and grabbing smaller seals, penguins, fishes, and even a fully grown platypus with their long fore-flippers and canines. Their modified teeth also have gaps for catching krill in the water.
Leopard seals can live up to 26 years and are the third-largest seals in the world. The last estimation of their population was in 1990 at 300,000. Because they don’t live in packs, it’s hard to know their current numbers.
This fish has glycoproteins instead of red blood cells or hemoglobin, making it see-through. These antifreeze proteins cling to ice crystals to make the icefish survive as they stay near the ocean floor. It also doesn’t have any scales and has a transparent skeleton.
Most of the 16 species of the icefishes are in Antarctica. This stunning animal has a larger heart and gill blood vessels to draw in enough oxygen from the southernmost waters. It’s assumed that icefish looks like it is today due to many adaptations to survive.
Icefishes are also called crocodile icefish because of their snout’s shape and feed on small fishes and crustaceans. Other names attributed to them are white-blooded or clear-blooded fish.
3. Snow Petrel
The snow petrel is small in size, similar to a pigeon but is widely recognized as a magnificent seabird with its pure white feathers, black bill, and blue-gray feet and the fact that even with their size, they manage to survive the extreme climate of the Antarctic.
They are hunters by day, flying close to the waters to dive and scoop their prey. Snow petrels can live up to 20 years with over 4 million in population. They are often found near open water but sometimes settle on the land, on top of icebergs, and nests near cliffs.
Some snow petrels stay at the colony all year, while others go north and return in September or November.
2. King Penguin
The King Penguin is a popular representative of the penguins in many movies and drawings. It’s the second-largest penguin species after emperor penguins, with over 2 million breeding pairs and counting.
They have golden to yellow feathers on their heads and necks and red-orange bills and cheeks. They form colonies, usually on slopes near the sea, and these colonies tend to get big. A great colony was even spotted in South Georgian Island with more than 200,000 penguins.
You can always spot a King Penguin when you’re on an expedition because even if they are in colonies, there are still those that tend to scatter around. They eat small fishes, squids, and crustaceans by diving into the water, often staying at least 5 minutes below to get their prey. They swim at 5 to 10 km per hour, and instead of hopping like other penguin species, they walk on land.
King Penguins start to breed at 6 years of age and have the most extended breeding cycle of 14 to 16 months. They are serially monogamous, taking only one mate for one season and caring for their chick together. Although, they don’t end up taking the same mate for the following season.
1. Great Blue Whale
The Great Blue Whales are the largest animal ever to exist, and yes, including the dinosaurs. They weigh as much as 15 school buses, with their tongue matching that of an entire elephant’s weight.
This mammal has an average life span of about 80 to 90 years and can grow up to 105 feet. They are so named because they appear blue when underwater but are actually blue-gray once they come up to the surface.
Great Blue Whales have an almost exclusive krill diet and can eat up to 4 tons of these shrimplike animals in a day. They eat through their baleen that’s connected to their upper jaws. They gulp in a mouthful of water, and then their tongue forces the water out through the baleen.
They journey the ocean in small groups but are usually in pairs or alone, traveling at 5 miles an hour. Because of their long lifespan and often swimming alone, Great Blue Whales are regularly used in literature and art to signify loneliness.
Plan Your Antarctica Trip Now
Aside from the diverse and stunning landscape of glaciers, bodies of water, and volcanoes the southernmost continent offers, many breathtaking animals that survive the extreme climate in Antarctica await you. Plan your On The Ice expedition to have the experience you’ll never forget.