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Antarctica

Animals

Antarctica’s native land animals are all invertebrates – and they are all small. They include mites, lice, springtails, midges and fleas, many of which are parasites of seals and birds. The largest animal that permanently dwells on land in Antarctica is a wingless midge (Belgica antarctica) that grows to just over 1cm long.

Only a few bird species breed in Antarctica, among them are penguin species – emperor, Adélie and gentoo – and snow petrels, Antarctic petrels and South Polar skuas. Approximately 45 species of birds breed south of the Antarctic Convergence, including seven of the 17 species of penguins.

Compared to Antarctica’s relative barrenness, the Southern Ocean teems with life. With krill as the basis of its food web, the Southern Ocean supports a wealth of fish, seal, whale and seabird species. Of greatest interest among Antarctica’s marine life are the marine mammals: whales and seals.

Dogs were once widely used in Antarctica to pull sledges, but they were banned from the continent by the Antarctic Treaty’s Protocol on Environmental Protection and the last were removed in 1994.