Penguins and Wildlife
Most of the animals of Antarctica live on the edge and coast or in the water surrounding the continent. There are no land based vertebrate animals in Antarctica.
All the vertebrates there are dependent on the sea for feeding or are migratory and leave the continent when the winter arrives. The largest truly Antarctic land animals therefore are invertebrates only a few of millimetres in size!
The oceans surrounding the continent on the other hand are filled with all different kinds of animals. This includes whales, seals, penguins and other birds.
Large numbers of whales feed on the rich marine life, especially krill. The entire area around Antarctica has been declared an international whale sanctuary.
Penguins are birds that cannot fly, but they swim very well and spend most of their lives in the sea. Penguins live on pack ice and in the oceans around Antarctica. They breed on the land or ice surfaces along the coast and on islands. All penguins live in the Southern Hemisphere
Some penguin facts:
- Penguins eat in the ocean. They eat fish, crustaceans (like krill, etc.), and squid.
- To withstand the harsh conditions of the Antarctic, their bodies are insulated by a thick layer of blubber and a dense network of waterproof plumage.
- Some species can reach depths of 1000 feet or more and stay submerged for up to 25 minutes, though most prefer shorter, shallower dives.
- Of the 17 species of penguins, only four breed on the Antarctic continent itself: the Adelie, the Emperor, the Chinstrap and the Gentoo penguins. Most other species are found within the subantarctic regions which includes many coastal islands. Penguins are also found as far north as the Galapagos Islands, straddling the Equator.
- The Emperor Penguin is the largest penguin. It is up to 3.7 feet (1.1 m) tall and weighs up to 65 pounds (30 kg); this is bit less than half the size of an adult person.
- Penguins generally breed in large, dense colonies called ‘rookeries’, some with 180,000 or more birds. The sights, smells, and noise of one of these huge colonies are unforgettable.
- Most penguins build nests of stone and there they incubate one or two eggs. Adult pairs take turns incubating their eggs and feeding the chicks once they have hatched.
- Natural enemies of the penguin include seals, Killer whales, and, in the case of young chicks and eggs, several species of seabirds. Healthy adult penguins have no predators on land, so they have no natural fear of humans. While they don’t like to be approached directly, these naturally curious birds will sometimes come quite close to a quiet observer to get a better look.
While on their jouney to Antactica, the South Pole for Kids team will have an opportunity to visit a Penguin rookery in Chile. Stay tuned for their pictures and reports from this exciting excursion!