In the height of the Antarctic summer, water drips from melting icicles. Freshwater is a precious commodity and makes it possible for the continent's sparse vegetation to start growing again. Banks of moss are the homes of populations of tiny animals. But deep within the crevices, ice still remains, imprisoning some of the hardiest creatures on Earth and the only land animals that can survive the Antarctic winter - mites. Barely larger than a pin head, the tiny mites contain natural anti-freeze that allows them to cool to minus 30 degrees centigrade. As the ice melts these minute creatures come to life. They have no fixed breeding season and reproduce whenever temperatures creep above freezing. Often thousands will cluster together. Most are herbivores that feed on the moss and dead vegetation. But they themselves are food for a few tiny carnivores. In just a few places there is enough water to create fresh water ponds that are havens for another range of invertebrates - little crustaceans and insect larvae.
Available since: Thu 6 Oct 2011
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