To date, the insect fauna of Antarctica seems to number just one species – the Antarctic midge (Belgica antarctica). This tiny (2–6mm) fly is wingless (an adaptation to prevent it being blown away), and the maggots spend an arduous two years eking out meagre nutrition from tiny terrestrial algae and mosses to get through their life-cycle.

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The midge survives the winter by over-accumulating sugars in its body as a natural antifreeze, and by dehydrating itself so cell-rupturing ice crystals do not form.

It then goes into hibernation-like torpor under a warming blanket of snow to stay above its –15°C survival threshold. Since the fly remains on the continent year-round (unlike summer-visiting birds), it is also Antarctica’s largest permanent land animal.

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Main image: Belgica antarctica. © Tasteofcrayons, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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