The shorelines of the the lower triangle of southern South America are extensive due to the broken up mainland, convoluted channels, and islands. The coast includes a variety of different landscapes from step fjords to remote beaches. There is a high diversity of birds and mammals, including endemics. The cooler waters of the Humboldt current that sweep in from Southern Ocean waters and along the west coast of South America push the temperate seashore plants and animals further north up the west coast than the equivalent latitudes on the east coast.
The stunningly steep Chilean fjords include many glaciers that are still carving their way through to the sea.
This ocean region extends out to the dramatic high cliffs of the Tristan da Cunha group in the southern mid-Atlantic.
Stichaster striatus, ‘Common Light-striated Sea Star’. In 2006, research published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology revealed that when ‘alcoholic’ rats were fed an extract from this species of sea-star, they reduced their voluntary intake of alcohol! These experiments had been inspired by stories from the 17th and 18th century that Jesuit property-owners in South America fed "starfish soup" to their workers to increase sobriety.
The temperate coasts of southern South America include an interesting variety of endemic species of ducks and geese.
Chloephaga poliocephala, 'Ashy-headed Goose'. Live and breed along southern South American coast in summer, move inland to Argentine pampas grasslands in winter.
Chloephaga hybrida, 'Kelp Goose'. Sexually dimporhic, male is dark, female is snow white. As the name suggests, it mostly feeds on various types of algae.
Haematopus ater, 'Blackish Oystercatcher'.
Depending on your taxonomy, there are up to 20 species in this family. While many people think of penguins as being found exclusively around Antarctica, there are many in the temperate areas of the southern hemisphere, and southern South America is no exception. There are two species commonly found along the west coast of temperate South America, and of course there are always vagrants.
Spheniscus magellanicus, 'Magellanic Penguin'. Breeds around southern South America.
Spheniscus humboldti, 'Humboldt's Penguin' has one band on the chest.
Eudyptes moseleyi, 'Northern/Moseley's Rockhopper Penguin'. It is thought that 99% of all Northern Rockhopper Penguins breed only on Tristan da Cunha and Gough Island.
Thalassarche chlororhynchos, 'Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross'.
Phalacrocorax gaimardi, 'Red-legged Cormorant'. Lives along the west coast and southern part of east coast of South America, reflecting the cold waters of the Humboldt current.
Leucocarbo magellanicus, 'Rock/Magellanic Cormorant/Shag'. Common large black and white bird with striking red face patch. Common on temperate coasts of southern South America.
Lontra felina, 'Marine Otter'.
This genus contains only one species.
Otaria flavescens, 'South American Sea Lion'. This species is found along both west and east South American coasts (although due to the Humboldt current is found further north along the west coast than east). They are also found on the Falklands/Malvinas and out to the islands of the mid-Atlantic ridge.
South American Sea-lions have among the most obvious sexual dimorphism of the eared seas. The males can be twice as heavy as the females, and have a large 'mane' of hair, thus the name 'sea-lion'.
Arctocephalus australis, 'South American Fur Seal'. Breeds on the coast of southern South America and nearby islands.
Arctocephalus tropicalis, 'Subantarctic Fur Seal'. Breed on remote islands in the southern parts of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. Their inappropriate scientific epithet comes from when the species was described from a dead specimen found washed up on a tropical Australian seashore.