Cold Desert Biome  

     This biome is an ocean shore environment. The animals that live here find their food in the ocean. Some of the top predators go onto the land to rest or reproduce, but the food that they eat is in the icy waters.

    The primary producers are microscopic in size. Tiny diatoms, crustaceans, and protozoans live here. Oceanic upwelling brings nutrients from the bottom of the sea, and these microscopic creatures thrive.

     The primary consumers, such as small fishes and squid, eat these tiny lifeforms. The most important of the primary consumers are krill, small, shrimp-like animals that swarm in great numbers. Krill are a very important part of the food chain in the ocean. During the recent El Nino seasons their numbers were reduced by environmental changes in the water, and many larger animals starved.

     The secondary consumers include the huge blue and humpback whales, who feed on krill. Seals and many kinds of fishes also feed on krill and the smaller fish. Many kinds of sea birds utilize these resources, and, in the Antarctic, penguins also feed on them.

     The top predators in this food chain are killer whales. (Polar bears occupy this position in the arctic north) These are large, powerful animals, well adapted to their niche in a cold, demanding environment. They eat whatever they can catch, and prey mainly on penguins and seals.

    This food chain is an interesting one. It is so obviously a chain of meat eaters above an enormous number of tiny primary producers. It seems at once robust and vulnerable, and the vitality of the animals stands in stark contrast to the rigors of their environment.

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© Elizabeth Anne Viau, 1999. This material may be used freely for instructional purposes but not sold for a price beyond the cost of reproduction. Please inform the author if you use it at eviau@earthlink.net