Weirdest Antarctic Animals: 7 Bizarre Species in Antarctica


As one of the most extreme places on the planet, Antarctica is known for the unusual. The weirdest Antarctic animals are a central part of its unique appeal.

In this unique continent, ice covers the ocean almost all year round and temperatures are almost always below zero. It is therefore best known for its impressive glacial formations and huge icebergs.

Despite its challenging conditions, this frigid continent has an incredibly biodiverse ecosystem. You likely know about its vast penguin and seal populations. But there is plenty more to see here on an Antarctica cruise.

Find out about the most bizarre animals that live on this isolated and intensely cold continent.

Antarctic Blackfin Icefish

One of the weirdest Antarctic animals is the blackfin icefish. The most distinctive aspect of this unique fish species is its appearance. Its blood is completely transparent due to the lack of haemoglobin. Furthermore, it has a see-through skull. Its bones are extremely thin, allowing you to peek through the skull and into its brain.

Scientists also find it fascinating due to its remarkable ability to thrive in the frigid waters of Antarctica. Partly, this is because of the aforementioned unusual features. In very cold water, red blood cells are likely to freeze. So how does it absorb oxygen in the absence of red blood cells and haemoglobin? It has enormous gills and no scales and can likely absorb oxygen through the skin. It also has an extraordinarily large heart and an extensive vascular system. Its light bones on the other hand possibly help it float with ease to eat creatures that live near the water surface.

Hourglass Dolphins

This unique species is the only small member of the dolphin family that lives in Antarctica and sub-Antarctic waters. A majority of dolphins prefer warmer areas because they are warm-blooded. But this species thrives here. The Drake Passage is one of the spots known for the most sightings of these timid creatures.

Like most other members of the dolphin family, hourglass dolphins love company. You can see them in pods of up to 100 individuals. They also keep company with killer whales and southern right whale dolphins among others. They are adventurous, often seen changing direction to catch the waves from ships and boats. As they come up for air, they love to spray sea water.

Snow Petrel

The snow petrel makes our list of the weirdest Antarctic animals because it is one of only three bird species that breed here. The other two are the south polar skua and the Antarctic petrel. These are the only bird species that researchers have observed flying over the South Pole.

Just like the landscape here, the snow petrel boasts snow white plumage all over its body. The only exceptions are the blue feet, black bill and black eyes. Its breeding colonies are mostly on Antarctic islands and on the Antarctic Peninsula. Unlike most sea birds, this species does not have large breeding colonies. Rather, it looks for sheltered spots like rock crevices to nest every December. It has a unique defensive mechanism where it hurls stinky projectile vomit at predators. Another unique trait is its ability to make oil to feed their chicks and for sustenance during long flights.

Colossal Squid

The colossal squid stands out among the rarest and weirdest Antarctic animals. It is the largest species of squid in the world as well as the largest invertebrate. It grows to a length of up to 14 meters (46ft), body and tentacles included, and can weigh a whopping 700kg (1,500lbs). Not surprisingly, it could be one of the sea monsters behind the legend of the mythical kraken. The other possibility is the giant squid.

This unusual creature has the largest eyes of any living thing – between 11 and 16 inches. Its preferred habitat is in the depths of the Southern Ocean. Adults dive as deep as 4,000 meters (13,000ft) below the ocean surface. It engages in fierce battles with sperm whales, which are one of its few natural predators. Since it is so elusive, scientists still know little about these mysterious creatures.

Emperor Penguins


These are the only penguin species that you can only find in Antarctica. They are the largest members of the species, weighing up to 45.3kgs (100lbs) and a height of 1.2 meters (4ft). Moreover, they happen to be among the largest birds.

These graceful animals can dive up to 500 meters+ (1,700ft) below water surface. This is because they have incredibly high bone density, enabling them to cut through water like torpedoes. Once female emperor penguins lay eggs, they pass them on to the males for incubation.

In order to survive the icy conditions, their feathers come in two layers and they have a reserve of fat. Their legs have feathers too and their feet have a special kind of fat to prevent freezing. It stands in stark contrast to one of Africa’s rarest animals, the African penguin. The latter has unique features that enable it to thrive in the sweltering heat of the coast of Africa.

Southern Elephant Seals

As you can imagine, the southern elephant seal is one of the largest creatures in the Antarctic. It is the largest seal species on the planet, measuring up to 6 meters (20ft) and weighing about 4 tons (8,800lbs). Interestingly, the name has nothing to do with their size. It describes the trunk-like nose of their males.

You are likely to smell these creatures even before you see them, along the coastlines. Though they breed on land, they spend most of their winters in the icy cold water. Though they are awkward on land, they are remarkable swimmers. They can dive to depths of about 1,000 meters (3,300ft) in search of food.

These unique animals can hold their breath under water for up to two hours. How do they do this? They have a very high volume of blood with extra red blood cells to carry extra oxygen. They save extra blood in special chambers known as sinuses in the abdomen. Southern elephant seals also store oxygen in muscles and they use it efficiently.


There are a number of things that make this one of the weirdest Antarctic animals. First, it measures only a millimeter or two – but it is the largest land animal on the frigid continent. It is exclusively land-dwelling, unlike sea-going animals like penguins and seals. Second, it is one of few creatures on the planet that you can freeze and defrost without causing any harm to it. It has remarkable anti-freeze properties that make it capable of surviving extreme cold. Given its size however, the chances of seeing a springtail on an Antarctic cruise is minimal.

Learn About the Weirdest Antarctic Animals on an Antarctica Cruise


Antarctica is positively teeming with bizarre creatures. Though the penguins, seals and whales often steal the limelight, there are lots of other animals to see on an Antarctica cruise. These are just a few of the weirdest Antarctic animals to look out for on your next adventure.

A tour of this unique destination is a chance to learn how these creatures thrive in one of the least hospitable places on earth. It is also an opportunity to explore the best kept secrets of Antarctica.

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