Is There Plant Life In Antarctica?
During the wonderful trips, we made this summer, we told you about Antarctica.
From penguins to seaweed, today we are going to discover some of the amazing living things that live there.
Covered with ice to thicknesses sometimes reaching more than 1000 m, swept by extreme winds, and cold, very cold (down to -90 ° C) but above all dry, this continent of 14,000 km 2 cannot be qualified as an ideal habitat.
When we talk about territories full of life of all kinds, we think of the rainforest or corals, but not of Antarctica. And with good reason! Living conditions are extreme and difficult for many living beings… but not all. Here they are.
Seas and shores with abundant lives
The coasts of Antarctica, thanks to its waters connected to the rest of the world, are home to many marine species: algae and krill, squid, dolphins, and whales… It is impossible to name them all. About forty species of seabirds also live, at the crossroads between land, sea, air, and ice, including the famous emperor penguin.
The emperor penguin is the heaviest and largest of all penguins. Even though penguins are birds, they cannot fly. On the other hand, they like to swim in cold water and eat the many crustaceans and fish that are there.
This bird is considered a near-threatened species. The disturbances of his daily life, the lack of food, or the degradation of his habitat, have important consequences on his quality of life, especially since he only lives and knows how to live in Antarctica.
Indeed, the emperor penguin is an endemic species, that is to say, that it lives in a region of the world with very different living conditions from neighboring regions.
Ice lands with discreet lives
A tardigrade measuring just over 1mm on average, also called a Water Bear, under a Scanning Electron Microscope. Credit Science Faction Images — SuperStock/age fotostock
When you leave the ice and rocky beaches to get closer to the South Pole, life becomes much more discreet. No mammals here! But insects, tardigrades, worms, mosses and lichens, and other microscopic and amazing animals and plants. Here are two small, microscopic, examples of these terrestrial and endemic species with exotic names: Belgica Antarctica and Rhinoglena kutikovae.
Belgica Antarctica is an insect close to the fly or the mosquito but without wings. With its 6 millimeters long, it is the largest animal that lives far from the coast.
Its larvae are very resistant. Apnea champions can last a month without oxygen. The adults do not have wings, probably because of the too strong winds which make it difficult for such small animals to fly.
Rhinoglena kutikovae, on the other hand, is a species of microscopic rotifers ( invertebrates ) that feed on planktonic algae and live in freshwater.
Pure water? Yes indeed, Antarctica has more than 70 lakes under the ice. Rhinoglena kutikovae is fascinating because it has been present in Antarctica for a long time – millions of years according to researchers. Thus, his ancestors always found liquid water to cross time and periods of intense ice ages !!