Antarctic animals list, with pictures and information. Discover the amazing animals that live in one of the world’s harshest environments.
- View / download a FREE Antarctic Animals worksheet for this page here: Free Printable Worksheets.
- If you want to know more about the continent of Antarctica, you’ll find all of the facts here: Antarctica Facts.
- Discover more amazing animals here: Animals: The Ultimate Guide.
Antarctic Animals List: Introduction
Antarctica is a vast frozen continent at the far south of the world. It is covered in a thick layer of ice, and surrounded by the icy waters of the Southern Ocean.
The Antarctic region includes the continent of Antarctica, together with the surrounding sea, ice shelves and island territories that fall within the Antarctic Convergence – an area where the cold Antarctic seas meet the warmer subantarctic waters.
This list of Antarctic animals contains species found throughout the Antarctic region.
The Antarctic is a cold, inhospitable place. It has a low biodiversity, which means that, compared to other parts of the world, only a small number of species are found here.
On the continent of Antarctica itself, very little life exists in the frozen interior. Most species are found on or around the coasts, particularly on the Antarctic Peninsula; the northernmost part of Antarctica.
- You can see a map of Antarctica here: Antarctica Facts.
Life in the Antarctic is a constant struggle. Let’s meet some of the animals who call this cold polar region their home …
Antarctic Animals List
Albatrosses are large seabirds that spend most of their lives at sea. The Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans), and other albatross species such as the Grey-headed albatross (Thalassarche chrysostomsa) and Black-browed albatross (Thalassarche melanophris), are found in the Antarctic region.
The Wandering Albatross has an average wingspan of 3.1 m (10.2 ft.); the largest of any bird. It spends most of its life in the air, and only lands in order to feed and to breed.
Antarctic Krill (Euphausia superba)
It may be small, but the Antarctic Krill is one of the most important animals in the Antarctic food chain. This small, shrimp-like crustacean is found in vast numbers in the Southern Ocean, forming groups called swarms which can be seen from space.
Antarctic Krill grow to around 6 cm (2.4 in). Krill is eaten by many other Antarctic animals, including whales, seals and seabirds.
The total biomass (weight) of all of the Antarctic Krill in the world is thought to be larger than that of any other species.
Antarctic midge (Belgica antarctica)
The wingless Antarctic Midge grows up to 6 mm (.25 in) in length. It is the largest land animal (i.e. one that lives purely on land, and doesn’t fly or swim) in Antarctica. It is also the only insect on mainland Antarctica.
Antarctic Springtail (Cryptopygus antarcticus)
This tiny, insect-like animal grows to only 1-2 mm in length and can survive in temperatures as low as -30°C (-22°F). It has a natural chemical antifreeze in its body to prevent it from freezing.
Antarctic Toothfish / Patagonian Toothfish
The two species of the Dissostichus genus are the Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni) and the Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides). Both toothfish produce natural antifreeze proteins in their blood and tissue.
Arctic tern (Sterna paradisaea)
The Arctic Tern is a small seabird with mainly white plumage, bright orange legs and bill, and a black ‘cap’.
This incredible animal travels further than any other bird in one year, and is known to cover distances of around 40,000 km (25,000 miles) each year.
The Arctic Tern breeds in the Arctic before making its way south to the Antarctic. This is why you’ll find it in our Arctic Animals List, as well as in this Antarctic Animals list.
Another tern found in the Antarctic is the Antarctic Tern (Sterna vittata).
Colossal Squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni)
The Colossal Squid is also known as the Antarctic Squid. It grows up to 14m (46 ft.) and is thought to be the world’s heaviest squid (and therefore the world’s largest invertebrate).
Giant Antarctic Octopus (Megaleledone Setebos)
The Antarctic Octopus grows to almost 1 metre (3 ft.) in length, and has a special venom that doesn’t freeze at sub-zero temperatures.
Hourglass dolphin (Lagenorhynchus cruciger)
The Hourglass Dolphin is a small dolphin that is found in Antarctic and subantarctic regions. Its black and white markings make it look like a mini Orca. It is very rarely seen.
The Icefish (Channichthyidae) family, is found in the Southern Ocean. Icefish blood is colourless because it lacks haemoglobin (the chemical that processes oxygen). It isn’t needed by the Icefish, as the cold Antarctic water holds more oxygen than warmer waters. The lack of hemoglobin makes the Icefish look white.
Imperial Shag (Phalacrocorax atriceps)
The Imperial Shag (also known as the Antarctic Shag) lives on the Antarctic Peninsula of Antarctica, and on many islands in the Southern Ocean. It is a large bird, with a white chest and black wings and back. It has distinctive rings of blue skin around its eyes. Because of these, it is also called the Blue Eyed Shag.
Kelp gull (Larus dominicanus)
The Kelp Gull is found throughout the southern hemisphere, and one subspecies, Larus dominicanus austrinus is found in Antarctica and surrounding islands. Kelp gulls are mid-sized gulls with black or dark coloured wings and white heads and chests.
Marbled Rockcod (Notothenia rossii)
This species of cod icefish is found in the Southern ocean. The Marbled Rockcod was a victim of overfishing in the 20th century, which decimated its population. Cod icefishes have high amounts of fat for insulation. Their bodies also produce antifreeze proteins.
Alaskozetes antarcticus is a microscopic mite that lives on Antarctica. It eats vegetation and can survive in sub-zero temperatures.
Nematodes are also called Roundworms. There are many different types of nematode, some of which have adapted to life in Antarctica.
Orca (Orcinus orca)
The fearsome Orca, also known as a Killer Whale, is a toothed whale and member of the Oceanic Dolphin (Delphinidae) family. It is an apex predator (top of the food chain), and its prey includes seals, fish and even other whales. It is found in all of the world’s oceans, including the Southern Ocean around Antarctica.
Read more about the orca here: Orca Facts.
No Antarctic animals list would be complete without penguins! Penguins are distinctive flightless birds of the Southern Hemisphere. Their wings have evolved into flippers, which they use to ‘fly’ through the water in pursuit of krill, fish, and other prey.
Five species of penguin breed on Antarctica. These are the: Emperor penguin, Chinstrap penguin, Adélie penguin, Gentoo penguin and Macaroni penguin.
Other penguin species, such as the King Penguin and the Rockhopper Penguin are also found on subantarctic islands near Antarctica.
- You can find out more about the penguins that live in Antarctica here: Antarctic Penguins.
Petrels are seabirds that only return to land to breed. Several species are found in the Antarctic, including the Snow Petrel (Pagodroma nivea), Antarctic Petrel (Thalassoica antarctica), Antarctic giant petrel (Macronectes giganteus), Cape Petrel (Daption capense) and Antarctic prion (Pachyptila desolata).
The Snow Petrel breeds exclusively in Antarctica, and breeds further south than any other bird.
Phytoplankton are microscopic plants that drift in the upper layer of the sea. They live off carbon dioxide and obtain energy by photosynthesis. They form an important lower lever of the Antarctic food chain.
Rotifers are microscopic animals found in Antarctic waters and soil.
Seals are marine mammals in the Pinniped group of animals. (Marine mammals are mammals that either live in the sea, or whose lifestyle is reliant on the sea.)
Seals are found all around the world, but most species prefer colder regions. Seals found in the Antarctic include the Southern Elephant Seal – the world’s largest carnivoran, and the Crabeater Seal – the world’s commonest seal. Other Antarctic seals include the Antarctic Fur Seal, Leopard Seal, Ross Seal and Weddell Seal.
- You can find more information about Antarctic seals here: Antarctic Seals.
Spectacled porpoise (Phocoena dioptrica)
The Spectacled Porpoise is a rarely-seen porpoise that is found in subantarctic and Antarctic waters. It has a black back and white undersides. Markings around its eyes make the Spectacled Porpoise appear to be wearing glasses, hence its name.
Skuas are seabirds that are found in many parts of the world. They are well-known for being ‘kleptoparasites’. This means that they let other birds find food before taking it for themselves. Skuas will also eat other seabirds and their chicks.
South Polar Skua (Stercorarius maccormicki)
South Polar Skuas are large, powerful birds. They breed on Antarctic coasts during November and December, and spend winter in warmer climes. (Remember that the summer months of the Southern Hemisphere and the winter months of the Northern Hemisphere.)
Brown Skua (Stercorarius antarcticus)
The Brown Skua is also known as the Antarctic Skua. It is a big, heavy bird that, like the other Skuas, will happily steal food from other large bird species. The Brown Skua breeds in Antarctic regions and migrates north during other times of the year.
Snowy Sheathbill (Chionis albus)
The Snowy Sheathbill is a pigeon-sized bird with white feathers and a pink face. It is a scavenger and a kleptoparasite. It is the only land bird native to Antarctica that isn’t a penguin.
Tardigrades are microscopic animals with eight legs. They can withstand extreme conditions and have been found on mountaintops, in the sea, and on Antarctica.
Whales are attracted to the cold waters of the Antarctic region by the huge swarms of Antarctic Krill (which you can read about further up this Antarctic animals list) that are present in the Southern Ocean .
Whales seen in the Antarctic include: Southern right whale, Antarctic minke whale, Blue Whale, Humpback whale, Sperm whale, and the Southern Bottlenose whale.
- You can find out more about all of the whales seen the the Antarctic region here: Antarctic Whales.
Wilson’s storm petrel (Oceanites oceanicus)
Wilson’s storm petrel is one of the world’s commonest species of bird. Found all around the Southern Hemisphere, and in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere, it spends its life at sea and only returns to land to breed.
Other petrels found in Antarctica are the Black-bellied storm petrel (Fregetta tropica) and the Grey-backed storm petrel (Garrodia nereis).
Zooplankton are animals that drift in the sea. The word ‘Zooplankton’ comes from Greek words meaning ‘Animal’ and ‘Drifter’. Most Zooplankton are very small, and eat even smaller plants called phytoplankton.
Zooplankton include the larvae of shrimps and crabs, and most are too small to be seen with the naked eye. However, Zooplankton also includes larger animals such as Krill and Jellyfish.
Zooplankton form an important part of the Antarctic food chain.
Antarctic Animals List Conclusion
We hope that you have enjoyed learning about the many different kinds of Antarctic animals. There are far fewer species found in the Antarctic than in other, more biodiverse, areas such as rainforests. However, the species that do manage to exist on and around this freezing continent are especially interesting, due to the special adaptations they have had to evolve.
If there is an animal on this list that you are particularly interested in, why not learn a bit more about it? You could try to find out its conservation status, if it has any special adaptations for Antarctic life, and what it eats … or what eats it!
You can find more information about the earth’s Polar Regions on the following pages: