Antarctic Petrel

Genus Thalassoica

  • Antarctic Petrel Thalassoica antarctica

A bit smaller than the Southern Fulmar F. glacialoides with a distinctive brown and white plumage.

Evolution and taxonomy

Thalassoica belongs to the early splits from the fulmarine lineage. According to Penhallurick & Wink (2004) the ancestors of Pagodroma and Thalassoica seem to have diverged ca. 16 My ago. The splitting of this branch occurred about 13.2 My ago and produced Pagodroma and Thalassoica. Nunn & Stanley (1998) suggest a third divergence from this branch that led to Daption as well.


Antarctic Petrels have a circumpolar distribution and breed on many Antarctic islands, on the coast of the Antarctic continent and even far inland on Antarctica. During the breeding season Antarctic Petrels rarely move outside the pack ice zone. After breeding they move further north but stay mostly south of the Antarctic convergence.


Antarctic Petrels feed mainly by surface seizing, surface plunging and dipping. Pursuit-plunging to depths of 1,5 m by using the wings for underwater propulsion has been recorded. This species is supposed to be the best diver among the fulmarines. Their flight is stiff winged and typical fulmarine. It breeds on ledges and makes no burrows. Like the other members of this group they are poor walkers.


The Thalassoica skull is typical fulmarine with a rounded cranium and fused lachrymals. Its rather slender bill is dark brown with an olive tinge at the latericorns and ramicorns. The inside of the cutting edges of both yaws is yellowish. Juveniles have black bills.

Antarctic Petrel
Thalassoica antarctica, Ardery Island 1)
Culmen: 40.5 mm, total: 98.4 mm; unsexed adult

  • Skull
  • Flight apparatus
  • Pelvis and legs
  • Vertebrae and ribs
1) Courtesy of Jeroen Creuwels and Jan Andries van Franeker