Watch: Biodiversity in Antarctica, thanks to poop

Scat from elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) and penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula can help spur biodiversity. ©Michael Sale

The Antarctic Peninsula can be a brutal place, but penguins and seals have created biodiversity hotspots, researchers found, thanks to their nitrogen-rich scat. Biologists found ammonia from their feces is blown inland and provides nitrogen for soil more than 1,000 meters away. Mosses and lichens grow, supporting vibrant populations of invertebrates. The arrival of invasive plant seeds could change the dynamic, though. Researchers warn the plants could harbor insects that will prey on the invertebrates.

See the researchers’ video of adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) below, and read the study in Current Biology here.