March 19, 2021

Animals of the Antarctic: 10 Things you Never Knew

- By Becky Parmiter

Continue reading Animals of the Antarctic: 10 Things you Never Knew
There’s nothing that spells adventure quite like a trip to the farthest reaches of our beautiful planet. In an ice-covered continent that boasts the world’s coldest temperature ever recorded (a balmy -89.2 degrees celsius), you will visit the home of some of the earth’s most elusive, beautiful, and resilient animals – the animals of the Antarctic. 

Their adaptation to the extreme winds and dryness of the world’s fifth-largest continent is nothing short of amazing. This guarantees a most excellent and wondrous journey for those who dare to visit this strange and exotic land.

But before you start packing for this once-in-a-lifetime expedition, we thought we’d give you some food for thought by showcasing the 10 most amazing and unbelievable facts about the animals of the Antarctic that call this icy wonderland home.

#1 – The Peculiar Rockhopper Penguins of the Falkland Islands

The Falkland Islands are located approximately 310 miles (500 km) off South America’s Patagonian coast and are home to five species of Penguins, all with distinct characteristics and charming personalities that you’re sure to fall in love with. Some of the penguin species that live there are in overabundance, while others are a bit more elusive. Regardless, they’re sure to delight and make for an exciting bird-watching adventure that you’ll never forget. 

It’s hard to pick a favorite, but the rockhopper penguin comes in at our number one spot for their death-defying acrobatics amongst the rocky and icy terrain that they call home. Coming in at a mere 23.6 inches (60 cm), the rockhopper penguins perform death-defying tricks for the lucky few who visit them each year by jumping from rock to rock, scaling massive cliffs and balancing on peaks that even the most experienced rock climber would think twice about. 

Not only are they magnificent climbers and jumpers, but they’re also renowned for the distinctive yellow spiky markings on their heads that are amplified by red eyes that are both mysterious and a bit spooky.

#2 – The Lashing Leopard Seal

Although only six of the 35 species of seals live in Antarctica, the cunning hunters that call this icy wonderland home make up the majority of the seals on our entire planet! In fact, because of the plethora of seals that make up the continent’s animal population, the earliest explorations of Antarctica were for the sole purpose of hunting them for their furry coats and oily blubber. Thankfully, all seal species are now protected, which means that there’s an abundance of opportunities to visit and interact with these curious creatures. 

The animal who ranks second on our list is a fearless hunter, the only seal who kills other mammals for food: the lashing leopard seal. As the second-largest species of seal in the Antarctic (after the elephant seal), this ruthless renegade has only one natural predator; the orca. With incredibly long bodies and spotted skin (hence the name), the number two animal on our animals of Antarctica list gives all the other animals a run for their money—and perhaps a run in the opposite direction when they’re confronted by one!

#3 – The (Really) Big Blue Whale

It probably comes as no surprise to you that the number three animal of the Antarctic in our list is the beautiful blue whale. Not only are they the largest animal to have ever existed, but they also have made a major comeback after years of whaling. 

What’s really amazing about these marine mammals (besides their enormous size—up to 98 feet in length) is that their tongues can weigh as much as an elephant! If that’s not enough, their hearts can weigh as much as an automobile. I think they give The Titanic’s “Heart of the Ocean” a run for its money, don’t you think?

#4 – The Beautiful Blue-Eyed Cormorants 

There’s nothing quite like staring into big beautiful blue eyes, especially when they’re perfectly placed on the adorable long-necked cormorant. Also known as imperial shags (yeahhhh, baby), these amazing creatures are the only Antarctic bird to keep year-round nests, weather permitting. Even with their brilliant appearance, they’re not ideal neighbors as they consistently prowl for fresh nesting material from the other 20,000 cormorants that call the beautiful continent of Antarctica home.

#5 – The Sneaky Southern Elephant Seal

Another seal hits our list at number five, the sneaky southern elephant seal. Out of all the seal species that live in the Antarctic, the elephant seal is by far the biggest, weighing up to 8818 pounds (4,000 kg)!

If you happen to find yourself diving in Antarctica (wait…don’t do that), you’re likely to find an elephant seal or two keeping you company. That’s because this animal of the Antarctic can dive up to 3280 feet (1,000 m), for up to 20 minutes at a time! They achieve this amazing feat by exhaling before diving to get gasses out of their system.

#6 – The Unfortunately Finite Fin Whale

If a glimpse of a nearly extinct marine mammal is what you’re after, there’s always a chance that you’ll be able to spot the amazingly agile fin whale on your adventure in Antarctica. As the second-largest whale species, they can live up to 90 years of age.

Known as the greyhounds of the sea, these beautiful creatures can weigh up to 130 tonnes, which makes their nimble abilities even more incredible. They’re well known for their ability to glide through the water in a symphonic majesty despite their large size.

The most unbelievable fact about the fin whale is that they use their accordion-like throats to gulp down up to 4,000 pounds of food per day!

#7 – The Carefree Commerson’s Dolphin

Also known as panda dolphins because of their unique black and white markings, the carefree commerson’s dolphin loves a good ride on the waves close to shore, often showing off by displaying figure eights for their attentive audience. A laid-back, friendly marine mammal, the commerson’s dolphin swims with other species of dolphins, including the Peale’s dolphin, the Burmeister’s porpoise and the Chilean dolphin.

They’re also known for their ravenous hunger! They eat up to 13 pounds in a day thanks to their metabolism that’s unlike any dolphin or whale species that exists!

#8 – The Curious Cobb’s Wren

The curious Cobb’s wren is a friendly and approachable bird whose relatively small population (around 7,000 total) is found only in the Falkland Islands. Named after the author Arthur Cobb who famously shot one using rice as his ammunition (we definitely don’t condone this), the Cobb’s wren is a popular draw to this majestic area of the world for bird watchers alike.What’s most amazing about the Cobb’s wren is that despite their small population in a remote region, they adapt and thrive thanks to the strategic homestead they create on the areas of the island that aren’t occupied by their natural predators.

#9 – The Kind-Hearted King Penguin

Our top 10 list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning one of our favorite penguins in Antarctica, the kind-hearted king penguin. Unlike their emperor penguin cousins, the matched couples share in the duties of incubating their eggs. 

They also share an incredibly unique characteristic with the rest of the penguin species. If you can get close enough, you might be able to see the circular pupil of their eye change to square when constricted!

#10 – The Marvelous Macaroni Penguin

With a name derived from the famous nursery rhyme “Yankee Doodle,” the marvelous macaroni penguin comes in at our last spot in our top 10 things you never knew about animals of the Antarctic list. Not only are they marvelous, but they’re also extremely magnificent, proudly displaying a distinctive yellow crown on their heads.

As the loudest penguin species, their cries are heard by their other macaroni comrades—and above all the other cries from the other penguin species! But what makes these awe-inspiring animals the most recognizable is their unique mating dance as they choose their partner for life, often nicknamed “the ecstatic display.”

Visiting the Animals of the Antarctic

Now that your interest has been piqued about traveling to the far-off continent of Antarctica, you’re probably wondering how you can join the lucky few that have been able to witness the majestic landscape, resilient wildlife and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that this incredible region has to offer.

Thankfully, Wild Women Expeditions is heading to Antarctica! We’ll ensure that your trip of a lifetime to the Antarctic brings you everything you’ve ever dreamed of, including viewing the amazing animals of the Antarctic!

We’ve got exciting things up our sleeve: 

Wild Women Expeditions – Antarctica, South Georgia, and Falklands: Explorers and Kings 

Following in the wake of Shackleton and other famous Antarctic explorers who fearlessly paved a path on one of the greatest sea voyages in history, this adventure not only takes you from Ushuaia, Argentina to the Antarctic Peninsula and back, it also includes the remote Falkland Islands and South Georgia! 

For those of you that have been enticed by the thought of seeing the famous rockhopper penguins of the Falkland Islands, this expedition is for you!

We hope that our top 10 things you never knew about animals of the Antarctic have given you a myriad of reasons to put a visit to the remote continent of Antarctica to the top of your list. Not only will you create memories to last a lifetime, you’ll also open your senses to a world that’s beyond your imagination.

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