Antarctica is the world’s fifth-largest continent. It covers the Earth’s South Pole and is covered in ice. It is the coldest place on Earth. During winter, the temperature is low enough to keep the water frozen all the time. It is far colder in the center of Antarctica than near the coast.

Antarctica has only two seasons: summer when the continent is tilted towards the sun, and winter, when it faces the sun. As a result, snow in an Antarctic habitat does not melt; instead, it builds up over several years and eventually forms ice sheets: large, thick layers of ice. As a result, ice is a huge part of the Antarctic habitat, forming glaciers, ice shelves, and icebergs.

What animals live in an Antarctic habitat?

Antarctica is far too cold for people to live there permanently, and there are no native humans. Many of the humans in Antarctica live on scientific bases, some of which are only open in the summer and others throughout the year. People may also visit Antarctica as tourists.

Several animals occupy an Antarctic habitat:


Four types of seals live in the waters around Antarctica: the leopard seal, the crabeater seal, the Weddell seal, and the southern elephant seal. These seals are slow predators and hunt by waiting for their prey in certain spots. Most will not bother humans, except for the leopard seal, which is known to attack small boats.


Many different types of whales live in the waters of Antarctica during the summer, feeding on fish, squid, plankton, and penguins. The different types of whales include the humpback whale, the orca, the blue whale, and the killer whale.

Killer whales are the most aggressive, hunting seals, birds, and other whales. Unlike leopard seals, however, they are not likely to attack humans.


Penguins spend most of their time in the waters around the Antarctic, though they do come up on land to mate and raise their chicks. Penguins mostly eat very small fish and krill.

The species of penguins in an Antarctic habitat include emperor penguins, king penguins, Adélie penguins, chinstrap penguins, and gentoo penguins. They do not see humans as prey or predators, so they sometimes walk right up to people, though they’re also not afraid to give them a bite!


There are many species of bugs in Antarctica. Instead of dwelling in the water, like penguins, whales, or seals, these insects survive on Antarctica’s surface, preying on smaller bugs.

One of these bugs, the Antarctic midge, is Antarctica’s largest land mammal – even though it is about the size of a fingernail. These bugs go into hibernation when winter temperatures drop by standing completely still. Their blood stops them from freezing, meaning they can survive until the summer.

Other animals living in an Antarctic habitat include the albatross, which separates its time between the sea and the sky, only coming on land to mate and raise its chicks.

The waters are also filled with krill: tiny crustaceans that live off microscopic phytoplankton. Krill are hunted by species, including penguins and even the enormous blue whale.

What plants can live in an Antarctic habitat?

With the enormous amount of ice covering Antarctica, only 1% of the land is available to plants. Most of this land is along the Antarctic Peninsula, on islands, and in coastal regions on the edge of Antarctica.

No trees or shrubs grow in an Antarctic habitat, and only two flowering plants can survive there.

Antarctic pearlwort

This plant has very small, yellow flowers and a cushion-like appearance. It grows up to five centimeters tall and is commonly found in rocky areas over Antarctica’s coastal regions.

Antarctic hair grass

This plant mostly grows in the Antarctic Peninsula. It is found in rocky areas in small, concentrated tufts. They are often seen close to penguin colonies and are hard-wearing enough to withstand a lot of disturbance from both the winds and the penguins.

They have deep roots that keep them anchored and let them take in water and nutrients. Although the hair grass loses its leaves in the winter, it can survive freezing temperatures.

Without birds or insects that can help the pollination process, these plants have to rely on the wind during pollination. Fortunately, summers in Antarctica feature great wind, making the pollination process extremely simple.

Most of the plant life in the Antarctic is mosses, liverworts, lichens, and fungi. These species have adapted specifically to survive an extremely cold and dry environment. Each plant type has different species, with up to 400 species of lichen.

The different species are found in various parts of Antarctica: some are found in several locations, while others specialize in surviving specific and extreme conditions.

Interesting Antarctic Facts

  • Antarctica is the southernmost continent of the world and contains the South Pole.
  • The Southern Ocean surrounds the entire continent.
  • Although it may not seem like it on maps, Antarctica is bigger than Europe. It’s near twice the size of Australia!
  • Though an Antarctic habitat is not what you imagine when you hear the word “desert,” Antarctica is considered a desert because of how little it rains there.
  • Although Antarctica has no permanent human residents, several thousand people live and work at research facilities throughout the continent.
  • Antarctica contains roughly 90% of the world’s ice. Most of the land is covered by over a mile thick ice.
  • “Antarctica” comes from a Greek meaning “the opposite of North.”

Differences between the Arctic and the Antarctic

While it might seem at first that the Arctic and the Antarctic are very similar, there are plenty of differences between them:

  • Antarctica is a whole continent, while the Arctic is a sea of ice surrounded by landmass.
  • Antarctica does not belong to any country. The Arctic’s borders are not clearly defined and extend over the borders of six countries: Canada, the United States, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and Russia.
  • Many people are native to the Arctic, including Inuit, Sami, and Yakuts. Antarctica, however, has no native people or permanent human inhabitants, just rotating teams of scientists.
  • The Antarctic and the Arctic have different wildlife: the Arctic provides a habitat for polar bears, Arctic foxes, and reindeer, all shy or wary of humans. The Antarctic’s wildlife includes whales, seals, and penguins, which are far less fearful of human contact.
  • The Antarctic is far colder than the Arctic, which can have temperatures as low as -43°C. Antarctica, on the other hand, can reach temperatures of -62°C in winter!
  • Finally, the Antarctic has much bigger icebergs than you would ever find in the Arctic. For example, in 2017, an iceberg measuring 2,200 m² was found in West Antarctica!
  • The Antarctic habitat is a lot less hospitable than the Arctic. The Arctic has varied landscapes: mountains, hills, rivers and lakes, and vast stretches of tundra. The Antarctic, on the other hand, is 98% ice.
  • The Arctic has many land mammals, like polar bears and reindeer, though they sometimes have to range a long way for food. On the other hand, the largest Antarctic land mammal is the Antarctic midge: the larger life in Antarctica has to depend on the sea for their habitat.

Antarctic Habitat vocabulary


It is the word for material melting, evaporating, or falling off a glacier.


It is the opposite of ablation, where materials are added to glaciers by snow, rain, wind, or avalanches.

Antarctic bottom water

It is the coldest and densest water mass in the global oceans. It happens when surface water becomes colder and denser, sinking to the ocean floor.


The portion of Earth’s surface is permanently frozen for the whole year.

Fast ice

It is sea ice that forms along the coastline and remains attached.


This river is formed by ice, air, water, and rock debris formed partly or fully on land, large enough to flow with gravity.

Ice sheet

A large mass of ice covers all the land beneath it with a smooth ice coating. Ice sheets cover most of Antarctica.

Pack ice

It is a piece of the frozen sea that floats to a new position due to winds, tides, or currents. Therefore, the pieces can vary a great deal in size.

Sea ice

It is any ice that forms out of frozen seawater. During the winter, many polar waters are covered with sea ice.

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