Would You Survive in Antarctica?
by Elise Forier
Without special survival gear, food, and fuel, you wouldn't last long in Antarctica before freezing to death. Yet some animals and plants thrive in the coldest desert on Earth. They have developed special adaptations to help them survive in the extreme climate. What adaptations would you need to develop to stay alive in Antarctica?
- Sensitive eyes:
- Antarctic sunlight can be very strong. Believe it or not, you risk a bad sunburn in the summer—as well as snow blindness. In the winter, the days are very dark, making it hard to see.
- Thin skin:
- Your skin can't keep you warm in the subzero temperatures.
- As a mammal, your body can stay warm for a while but not forever. After a few unprotected hours in Antarctica, you would be frozen.
- Little to eat:
- Not much grows in this cold desert. Away from the coast, you would soon starve with nothing to eat.
- Fur and fat:
- Seals, penguins, and whales all have blubber to allow them to stay warm in the icy Antarctic seas. Fur or feathers protect skin from icy waters.
- Ice eyes:
- Some Antarctic plants have developed special resistance to the strong UV (ultraviolet) rays that come through the hole in the ozone layer during the spring and summer. Your eyes, too, would need special shields to keep them safe from the sunlight.
- Fins and teeth:
- Most of the really tasty, nutritious food lives in the water around Antarctica—either as plankton or as fish. You'd have to swim and eat like the seals to survive.
- Supercool blood:
- Some Antarctic fish—called notothenoid fish—have developed antifreeze in their blood, allowing them to be in below-freezing water without freezing.
- This article points out all the ways in which humans are not well adapted to live in Antarctica. What kind of a climate do you think humans are well adapted to live in? Why?
- Humans are not naturally adapted to live in really cold climates. Still, many people live in Alaska or in the deserts. What kind of adaptations have people created to allow them to live in extremely cold or extremely warm climates?