Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Belgica antarctica

Belgica antarctica
Did you know that insects do live on Antarctica? You may have assumed that the cold weather would scare the tiny invertebrates away from the continent, but you would've assumed wrong! Today's animal is one of a handful of little Arthropods that make our southernmost landmass home year round.

Belgica antarctica has the important distinction of being the largest terrestrial-only inhabitant of Antarctica-- at a whopping 6mm in length! These insects have some seriously amazing adaptations that allow them to survive in the hard environment-- they can go without oxygen for several weeks, they can survive their bodily fluids freezing, and they are able to produce specific compounds that keep that freezing to a minimum.

Warm temperatures are actually harmful to B. antarctica. They need to stay close to freezing in order to thrive. If it gets too cold though, they are in trouble. Luckily, they spend nearly all of their time just under the surface of the snow, which keeps the heat to within a few degrees of freezing.

Belgica antarctica can live up to 2 years, and spends most of that time in four different larval stages. As adults their lifespan in very short-- only around 10 days. They live just long enough to mate and lay eggs before dying.

IUCN Status : Not Listed
Location : Antarctica
Size : Length up to 6mm
Classification : Phylum : Arthropoda -- Class : Insecta -- Order : Diptera
Family : Chironomidae -- Genus : Belgica -- Species : B. antarctica
Image :  Richard Lee

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