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Three examples of marine life in the Antarctic: Seals and krill live in the Southern Ocean. Penguins live on the Antarctic continent and rely on the ocean for food.
Click on image for full size
Upper/middle photos courtesy of Uwe Kils and lower photo courtesy of Stan Shebs

Antarctic Marine Life

The chilly waters of the Southern Ocean are home to a diverse collection of marine life including eight whale species, six seal species, many fish species, and Antarctic krill, a small shrimp-like animal that is a key food for other species in the Southern Ocean.

There are 17 species of penguins in Antarctica. Penguins are part of the marine food web even though they live on land because they are completely dependant on the ocean for food. Other bird species depend on the Southern Ocean for food too such as the black-browed albatross and the Antarctic petrel.

The Southern Ocean food chain begins like most marine food chains, with primary producers called phytoplankton. Through photosynthesis, phytoplankton convert the Sun’s energy into food. Animals like Antarctic krill eat the phytoplankton and then larger animals such as penguins eat the krill. However, the Antarctic ozone hole has caused the amount of phytoplankton in the Southern Ocean to drop by as much as 15% which could eventually have an impact on the whole food chain.

Last modified January 22, 2007 by Lisa Gardiner.

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The Winter 2009 issue of The Earth Scientist, focuses on Earth System science, including articles on student inquiry, differentiated instruction, geomorphic concepts, the rock cycle, and much more!

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