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Wildlife in Patagonia and Antarctica
The Magellanic penguin
This is perhaps the least graceful penguin of all. It can be identified thanks to the horseshoe-shaped black stripe shaped it has on its white belly. Its head is black surrounded by a white band. It measures on average of 70 cm and weighs between 4 and 5 kg.
Magellanic penguins nest in burrows and lay two eggs that male and female convent for 40 days. The breeding season runs from October to March.
After moulting , around the end of April, the little penguins swim and feed themselves. The colonies then migrate to northern Argentina, Australia and New Zealand.
The main threat to this species is the oil pollution that kills more than 20,000 adults and 22,000 young people each year off the coast of Argentina.
The Commerson dolphin
The Commerson dolphin lives near the southern coast of the continent, the Kerguelen Islands and the South Georgia and Falkland Islands.
The Commerson dolphin, black and white, is different from the orcas because it is much smaller. It loves to swim and jump alongside boats, or roll under the water surface.
The South American population of the Commerson dolphin is the largest. It is found in various protected locations off the Argentinean Patagonian coast, in the Strait of Magellan, the Beagle Channel, in many Chilean fjords (Tierra del Fuego), along the coasts of the islands of the Cape Horn National Park, and near the Falkland Islands. The other part of its population remains confined near the Kerguelen Islands, 8,000 km east of their closest cousins.
In general, the Commerson dolphins prefer shallow waters.
The number of Commerson dolphins is not known, but the species is considered as common. A 1984 study estimated at 3,400 the number of individuals in the Strait of Magellan. These dolphins have teeth and thus feed on feed on squid, small fish and krill.
Because of its near-shore habitat, accidental deaths in the nets are quite common. In the 1970s and 80s, some Argentine or Chilean fishermen killed and butchered dolphins and used them as lures for crabs, but not anymore.
Southern Fur Seals
Although very similar to seals, fur seals have external ears and differently positioned front and outer fins. The sea lions’ rear fins can be folded under the body to help them to walk or hop while the seals’ are an extension of their trunk, forcing them to crawl to move.
The seals can be found all along the Patagonian shores. Its diet is based on fish, squid and crustaceans. They feed mainly during the night hours of the dark nights so its prey can be closer to the surface, thanks to low light.
The orca is its largest predator, even if up north, they can be chased by sharks.
Females reach sexual maturity at 4 or 5 years and enter the breeding season.
As soon as they are 15 days old, the babies get into the sea.
As for the male, it is always surrounded by its females, from 5 to 12. Its main activities is to defend them against other males. The fight is never fatal, the loser simply has to go away and find other area and females to take over.
The females have only two fertile days per year. After 340 days of gestation, the female gave birth in January. Each female only gives birth to one baby.
The Tehuelches, the Onas and the Vaganes fed on seal and used their skin and bones as tools and fabric because they are easy preys.
In 1960, seal hunting and selling was forbidden. It is still prohibited nowadays.
Southern whales swim in the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific oceans and migrate to the Antarctic.
This large whale is a very slow cetacean. Its body is so rich in oil that the corpse floats even after the death of the animal. These two reasons have made it very attractive for whale hunters. It was so coveted that it was about to disappear in the 19th century.
Today it is a fully protected species, and its population is slowly growing again.
It measures fifteen meters and weighs about 55 tons. It is recognizable by its black color and crustaceans attached to the calluses of his mouth.
Its wide V –shaped jet is generated by two holes situated above its head. Its black tail is another way to identify it.
At birth the calf weighs about 5 tons. It feeds on the rich in fat milk that allows it to grow 3.5 cm per day.
The whales come to sexual maturity 8 or 9 years. They can live up to 50 years giving birth to one calf every 3 years since gestation and breastfeeding last 1 year each. That is why the recovery of the species has been so slow since 1937, when started the international policy of whale protection.
The killer belongs to the dolphin family. It’s the most recognizable cetacean thanks to its black and white color and its large and sharp dorsal fin. A killer measures on average 7 to 9 meters.
This gregarious animal lives in groups of 5-20 individuals in general. The group structure has both social and hunting purposes.
They feed on a wide variety of preys they attack collectively: fish, sharks, squid, pelagic birds, marine mammals such as seals, sea lions and even other whales. When hunting, the orca uses a particular technique, in English "spyhopping ", ie to jump out of the water by a powerful vertical jump to visually locate prey. In English, it is also nicknamed the "killer whale ", but the orca never attacks humans.
The orca hunts in a very specific way off the Chilean coast, in search of seals on beaches. When it finds a group of seals, the orca approaches discreetly, swimming parallel to the shore and hiding its dorsal fin, and then jumps out of the water on the beach to capture preys. It then returns to the water squirming.
Albatrosses (in French " Diomedeidae ") are large and heavy birdsd – from 70 to 135 cm. They have very long wings (the size of the wandering albatross can reach 3.50 meters) and long and thick tubular nostrils.
They live in the ocean, down south the Capricorn Tropic and in the North Pacific. They reproduce on land, near the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic islands.
Albatrosses are exceptional travelers, they use the winds to travel great distances effortlessly. In 2004, a study showed that the fastest albatross has traveled 22,545 km in just 46 days without resting once.
Albatrosses feed on fish, squid and krill. The food is usually collected on the surface, but albatrosses are able to dive in shallow waters. Albatrosses nest in colonies usually on isolated islands. Couples are generally loyal for life. Every year, the courtship period is characterized by ritual dances during which the two birds rub their nose against one another. Only repeated failures in reproduction or the death of a bird can lead an albatross to change partners.
The breeding season is very long and it can take nearly a year between the spawning of the only egg and the maturation of the young one. Albatrosses have a very slow reproductive rate and any adult mortality is difficult to offset. That is why albatrosses are an extremely threatened population (18 species of 22 albatross are threatened with extinction.