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Five animals you’ll only find in Antarctica

These majestic (and seriously hardy) creatures live and thrive in the coldest and most isolated continent on Earth

November 2020

By Tristan Parker

There are many must-visit places around the world for animal-lovers, but one that simply has
to be on your bucket list is Antarctica. And unless you’re a budding polar explorer, the best way to see the region’s wildlife is on an Antarctica cruise, where you can soak up incredible views from out on deck and be guided by a knowledgeable expert as to which creatures to look out for. So, what creatures can you expect to see? Below are five incredible species that you’ll only find on this fascinating continent…

A group of Adélie Penguins

Admire a waddle of Adélie penguins © Hubert Neufeld/Unsplash

Adélie penguin

Adélies may be some of the smaller penguins you’ll find in the Antarctic, but that doesn’t mean they’re not built to handle the harsh environment, proven by the fact they spend their whole lives on and around the ice. They’re also excellent swimmers and can dive a mind-boggling 170m deep into the sea. And like any penguin you care to name, they’re also ridiculously cute.

A leopard seal lying on some ice

One of the biggest predators in Antarctica: the leopard seal © Michael Nolan/Robert Harding

Leopard seal

Seals are generally very loveable creatures, but don’t let this species fool you with its lolloping demeanour. The second-largest seal species in Antarctica and with fang-like teeth, leopard seals are one of the biggest predators on the continent. But it’s not all biting and fighting, as they also enjoy a good song – leopard seals are known for being vocal and singing underwater, especially males, who sometimes sing constantly for days on end, perhaps to attract a mate.

The white snow petrel bird, flying

Spy snow petrels in the icy skies © Michael Nolan/Robert Harding

Snow petrel

With their striking snow-white colouring, these gorgeous birds are fittingly named – apart from when they’re baby chicks, when they’re grey, seriously fluffy and seriously sweet, too. Petrels can be found dotted around Antarctica and the surrounding islands, and are one of only three bird species that breed in the region.

South Polar Skua on the water

The south polar skua can be spotted in Antarctica during summer © Michael Nolan/Robert Harding

South polar skua

These hefty, resilient birds can be spotted at the South Pole, which goes some way in explaining their name. Skuas aren’t averse to balmier climates, however, as during winter months they migrate from Antarctica to the warmer temperatures of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, even being occasionally spotted off the coasts of Japan and Greenland. Generally, though, you won’t see them outside of their natural habitat, where you’ll find them gobbling down fish and even the eggs or chicks of the Adélie penguin.

A crowd of emperor penguins

The biggest of the bunch: majestic emperor penguins © Pexels

Emperor penguin

Thanks to the 2005 film March Of The Penguins, the world now knows a little more about the lives of these marvellous creatures, who have become one of the most well-known examples of Antarctica wildlife. Emperors are the largest penguin species, measuring about 115cm tall, and they live and breed in the harshest of environments – in winter, Antarctic temperatures can drop to below -30°C. Apart from the odd maverick that somehow ends up on the coast of New Zealand every 50 years or so, the only place you’ll see these brilliant birds is Antarctica.

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About the Author

Tristan Parker

Tristan Parker

Tristan is a journalist writing about travel, lifestyle and music. Writing has taken him all over the world, though he seems to spend a lot of time in Spain and Scandinavia, which is fine by him. His belief that you can learn a lot about a place by sitting in the local bar for a few hours has worked out well so far.