Antarctic Animals

Although the South Pole itself does not support animal life, Antarctica is home to an exciting array of mammals, birds, and sea life. For researchers headed to the South Pole, a stop at McMurdo Station on the coast often provides an opportunity to go out and look for Antarctic wildlife.  Depending on your luck and the season, you might spot a penguin.

Adélie penguin
An Adélie penguin on the coast near McMurdo Station. Credit: John Hardin, IceCube/NSF

Many animals besides the popular penguin can be found in the seas and on the icy grounds of Antarctica. Fish, seals, and krill are just a few that have made this continent their home.

There are approximately 200 species of fish in the Antarctic waters, and sixty percent of the world’s seal population resides in Antarctica. Fur seals grow to be about seven feet long and 250 pounds, and they live on the coastal beaches of the Southern polar islands. Other sea creatures include animals as big as whales and as small as krill.

Antarctic krill, though only six cm in size, are crucial in the Antarctic food chain. They clean up the sea by feeding in groups of thousands on phytoplankton, algae, and diatoms. They are then eaten by many other creatures—a favorite meal for whales (a baleen whale can eat tons per day), seals, and birds.