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2.4 Comparative Marine Biology:
Seals, Seabirds, Whales and Penguins

Teacher Background

The wildlife of Antarctica is uniquely adapted to withstand the harsh conditions of this region. The seven penguin species are the Adelie, Chinstrap, Emperor, Gentoo, King, Macaroni, and Rockhopper. The six seal species are the Antarctic fur, Crabeater, Leopard, Ross, Southern Elephant and Weddell. Six species of whales belonging to the southern baleen group make their home in Antarctica for at least part of the year: Blue, Fin, Humpback, Minke, Sei, and Southern Right. Six different species of toothed whales are commonly seen in Antarctic waters: Sperm, Orca, Southern Bottlenose, Southern Four-tooth and Hourglass, and Southern Right Whale dolphins. There are more than 40 species of flying seabirds and landbirds, with Skuas, Petrels, Gulls, and Cormorants among the more common. Banding and recovery studies show that some Antarctic birds travel throughout the world.


Students will compare and contrast features of several Antarctic animals and birds.



Have students brainstorm a complete list of Antarctic animals. Record list on chalkboard; discard any animals that are not found in the Antarctic! Discuss methods of grouping these animals, then rewrite list under category headings.



  1. Working in teams of 3-4, students will research a particular grouping of animals. Using the Worksheet to organize their findings, students may also want to add a section-a collection of "Weird" or "Amazing Antarctic Facts"!
  2. When the research and chart are completed, teams can present their findings.
  3. Additional class discussion topics:
    • ways animals in Antarctica are uniquely adapted to their environment
    • ways in which the wildlife in Antarctica are threatened by outside factors
    • implications if any one species were removed from the food web


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Use satellite images of the Southern Hemisphere and references on migration to trace the migration routes of various species of sea animals and birds that spend at least part of the year in Antarctica.

Suggested URLs

Information about marine and terrestrial environments and animals.

Images and background information concerning marine life.

Satellite images and pictures of Antarctica and the Southern Hemisphere

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Last Update: 1/18/97
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