Antarctica… known as the emptiest and most remote continent on the planet, the vast majority of humans will never set foot on the icy planes of this lonely glacial region. But while there are only a few thousand people who temporarily reside in Antarctica throughout the year, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its fair share of wildlife.
With whales, seals, birds, fish, invertebrates, and all manner of creatures from land and sea, Antarctica has its own unique display of flora and fauna. And as with many remote places around the world, not all of the creatures here are welcoming to human visitors.
Though this continent probably has the smallest number of dangerous animals compared to most other regions of the world, there are some that you’ll want to avoid if you ever make it to the bottom of the earth. Here are the six most dangerous animals in Antarctica.
Antarctic Fur Seal
Despite its name, the Antarctic fur seal is mostly found on subantarctic islands, though some do reside in Antarctica itself. Unfortunately, over centuries these seals have been subjected to extremely high levels of predation from humans and even fellow seals. Particularly the leopard seal, which can also be found throughout the south seas.
Although fur seals are one of the smallest seal species (and also one of the cutest!), humans should avoid any contact with these animals and keep a considerable distance. Though they are generally passive and sometimes even playful animals, they can become hostile and aggressive if they are provoked or feel threatened. Their bites are often infectious and can cause considerable injuries to humans and other animals.
It’s easy to forget that giant squids are more than just a creature from the depths of our nightmares – they are very real, and reside in the south seas, observed mainly near Antarctica. The colossal squid, or Antarctic squid, gets its name from its enormous mass. It can weigh up to 495kgs and is the world’s heaviest living invertebrate. It is believed to feed on marine worms, fish, and smaller squid.
Interactions with colossal squids are rare, and there are few recordings of their behavior in relation to humans. Despite not being considered a direct threat to us, they have been shown to be fast and aggressive, and there are even records of enormous sperm whales bearing scars that were proven to be left by the suckers of the colossal squid. Due to their size and predatory behavior, there’s no denying that they could do a lot of damage in the right (or should we say, wrong) situation.
South Polar Skua
The south polar skua looks rather like a large brown seagull, and nests, breeds, and feeds in continental Antarctica. It’s not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the most dangerous animals in Antarctica. But unlike the seagull, this skua species – with its hawked beaks, piercing eyes, and large talons- is known for its territorial, predatory, and sometimes even aggressive behavior.
This is shown by their rather unpleasant feeding habits. They will often chase smaller and weaker birds and force them to regurgitate their meals so the skua can feed. They also prey on penguin chicks and scavenge whatever else they can find (including animal carcasses), and have been known to fearlessly swoop down and take food from unsuspecting humans mid-digestion.
However, much of their aggression comes after hatching. It is not unusual for the south polar skua to attack humans who venture too close to their nests. As long as you steer clear of their nesting sites, you don’t have to worry too much.
Considering that it’s the largest species of seal in the world, it should come as no surprise to learn that the elephant seal can also be a danger to other mammals, making it one of the most dangerous animals in Antarctica. The southern elephant seal lives on sub-antarctic islands and in Antarctica itself, where they can find many fish, squid, and other marine wildlife to feast on. They have even been known to attack and eat sharks.
Similar to the fur seal, the elephant seal is not inherently aggressive or dangerous and rarely attacks humans, but they are territorial and very protective of their pups. It is recommended to keep a wide berth from these seals and their breeding areas, as they can seriously injure humans and other animals if they feel provoked.
The fearsome leopard seal, or sea leopard, is a large and solitary creature that lives in the Antarctic and Southern ocean and can travel as far afield as Africa and South America. They are carnivores that prey on fish, birds, penguins, and other seal species. In fact, they are the only seal known to frequently hunt warm-blooded prey.
Due to their large size (the average adult leopard seal weighs between 300-600kg) and aggressive nature, humans should be very wary while in the presence of a leopard seal. These animals move deceptively quickly and have strong jaws with potentially infectious bites.
They have been known to stalk and attack dogs and people, with multiple instances of serious injury and one recorded case of death due to a seal attack. The victim was a British scientist working on the Antarctic Peninsula. In some cases, leopard seals have also been known to attack inflatable boats.
All of these things easily earn them the title of one of the most dangerous animals in Antarctica.
If you thought the leopard seal sounded dangerous, let us introduce you to its only natural predator – the orca whale, also known as the killer whale. This powerful creature is the largest member of the oceanic dolphin family, weighing as much as 6 tonnes (and sometimes more). These enormous and intimidating marine mammals are apex predators that feed on fish, seals, dolphins, and even other whales.
Despite their reputation, there has never been a single recorded death of a human due to an orca whale attack in the wild. The only fatalities, and most aggressive attacks, have occurred against humans by orca kept in captivity, with over 20 attacks being reported in the last half-decade. This does not mean they are not dangerous to humans in the wild, as there have been reported cases of orca’s tipping boats and mistaking swimming humans for prey. We may not be on the menu for these predators, but we should try to keep out of their way at all costs.
What is the most dangerous animal in Antarctica?
Though the orca whale is the most powerful apex predator on the continent, the leopard seal is at the top of the most dangerous animals in Antarctica for humans. This is due to the number of reported attacks in the last 100 years, and the fact that all recorded orca-related fatalities have taken place in captivity.
Unlike the orca, in rare situations, leopard seals have been known to view humans as prey. There have been several occasions where leopard seals in Antarctica have stalked people along the ice edge before attempting to drag them into the water. Only one incident in 2003 has ever resulted in death.
Are there snakes in Antarctica?
There are no snakes in Antarctica. Snakes are cold-blooded animals that need a consistent heat source to stay alive, which is why snake species are so prosperous in countries with warmer climates such as Australia and India. Snakes (and other reptiles) could not survive the extremely low temperatures and likely would not have an appropriate food source in the freezing Antarctic region.
Are there spiders in Antarctica?
Technically, there are no spiders in Antarctica. At least, not the kind of creatures that we tend to think of as spiders. On the other hand, there are pycnogonids, also known as sea spiders, found in the oceans around Antarctica and all over the world. The giant Antarctic sea spider, for example, has a diameter as large as 30 centimeters and can be found along the coast of Antarctica.
Typical land spiders have not evolved to bear extreme weather conditions like the ones that occur in Antarctica, which is why you won’t find any spiders there. Like snakes, they would also have no food source to survive on.
Are there wolves in Antarctica?
Wolves can be found in many regions of the world, but Antarctica is not one of them. In fact, wolves are not found in any country in the southern hemisphere. Though some species of wolf do live in parts of the Arctic circle, weather conditions in Antarctica are too harsh for these animals. And of course, there is no appropriate food chain on this continent that could sustain them