Land invertebrates

A mass of flies with translucent wings swarm over a plant.
Macquarie Island flies (Photo: K. Kiefer)

Terrestrial invertebrates are the most species-rich animal group in Antarctica and on the Southern Ocean islands.

Nematode worms, water bears (tardigrades), wheel-animals (rotifers), spingtails and mites are the most common animals on Antarctica.

Beetles and flies are the most species-rich insect groups on the Southern Ocean islands.

Mites and springtails reach densities of several thousand individuals per square meter on maritime Antarctic and subantarctic islands.

Earthworms and insects are responsible for most of the nutrient release from dead plant material in the subantarctic.

Many invertebrates in the Antarctic are able to survive subzero temperatures without freezing, while those on the subantarctic islands can freeze without dying.

On the Antarctic continent, water is one of the most important environmental factors determining the distribution and abundance of invertebrates.

The most significant effects of climate change for invertebrates are temperature changes that will change water availability.

On the Southern Ocean islands the most significant threats to terrestrial invertebrates are alien, invasive species such as mice, rats, and predatory beetles.

Terrestrial invertebrates are not only important in Antarctica, but constitute the small things that make the world go around everywhere.

This page was last modified on 20 February 2012.