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28 Jun 2019 14:24:53
As the name suggests, the Southern Ocean refers to an expanse of water that surrounds Antarctica and the bottom part of the globe. Its largest limits don’t touch land; instead, they blend into the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans. Although its exact boundaries are a topic of debate, it’s generally thought to touch Australia and the southern tips of Africa and South America. This part of the ocean supports a great variety of marine species which live at all depths, even some which haven’t been discovered yet. With sea temperatures around 2°C, icy surfaces and a long season of light and dark, it takes a uniquely evolved creature to call this polar region “home”. Get to know three of our favourite Southern Ocean creatures at SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium.
These Southern Ocean animals can weigh between 4-8kg each, and stand up to 90cm tall. You can identify these creatures by the wide, white stripe arching eye-to-eye over their head like a headband. Living between 17-22years, their wild population is estimated at over 300,000 pairs. They live in challenging conditions and have to source their food from the cold ocean. Gentoos are the fastest of all penguin species; reaching nearly 50km/h as they “fly” through the water using their wings. They’re carnivorous and like munching on marine animals like krill, small crustaceans, squid and fish. With no land-based predators, they’re hunted by larger marine animals like Leopard Seals, sharks and Killer Whales. Gentoo penguins only breed once a year; they pair up and stay loyal to their mate. How romantic!
These crustaceans like their water icy cold, at about 6-9°C! That’s pretty cold considering 5-degree water can be so chilly it feels as if your skin is burning. Growing to a large size, their shell can reach 11 inches with a leg span of up to five feet. Come in and see one of these beasts for yourself in our bubble tanks!
The distribution of these animals reaches the upper regions of the Southern Ocean. When you think penguin, this is the species that’ll come to mind; standing upright and elegant. Because their chicks are covered in a chunky brown down, they were known as ‘woolly penguins’ by early adventurers. Standing up to 95cm tall and weighing up to 18kg, the Kings are the second largest of all penguin species. They are incredible birds with the ability to dive up to 300m deep to get their fill of fish and krill (when humans learn to SCUBA, we only go to 18m deep!).
These amazing birds don’t create nests; instead, they lay a single egg at a time and transport it around on their feet, tucked under a brood pouch, which is a flap of abdominal skin used to keep the egg nice and toasty until it hatches. Both parents take 6-18-day shifts, caring for the egg over the 55 day incubation period. When their shift ends, they venture into the ocean looking for food; talk about shared parenting!
It takes quite an extraordinary animal to survive the hostile conditions of the Southern Ocean. Come face-to-face with these three animals here at our aquarium and let them inspire you to learn more!