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There’s life below half a mile of ice!2 min read

February 16, 2021 2 min read

There’s life below half a mile of ice!2 min read

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Recently, researchers found something in the Antarctic ice shelves that blew their minds. It was always assumed that life could not exist in conditions as extreme as the arctics, deep within the ice and without exposure to sunlight and food. But as always, Mother Nature decided to give us a lesson in humility because animal life was found living beneath 3,000 feet of ice!

No, we aren’t mistaking our zeros. James Smith and Paul Anker, part of the British Antarctic Survey, drilled into the Filchner-Ronne ice shelf and then dropped a camera down the hole to look for mud on the seabed underneath the ice. But of course, they changed upon another discovery instead.

Owliver’s Obscure Observation: The Filchner- Ronne ice shelf covers about 430,000 km2, and is the second-largest ice shelf in Antarctica, after the Ross Ice shelf.

What did they find? Tell us, already

They found a boulder that had tiny animals on it. Later, they identified 16 sponges and 22 other unidentified animals. Small mobile animals like shrimp and crustaceans have been seen before beneath ice shelves but this marked the first time that immobile life has been found beneath an Antarctic ice shelf.

The boulder with sighs of life attached to it. Photos: British Antarctic Survey

The animals feed on nutrients carried in the water but biologists were flummoxed because the boulder was atleast 250 km from the nearest water source where photosynthetic organisms can survive! So what kind of food are these sponges waiting for, while they are stuck to a rock?

There are still animals out there that can break the rules we have written for them

huw griffiths, marine biologist, british antarctic survey

Now, biologists will be determining if the animals are similar to those in open oceans or if they had to evolve a certain extant to survive in these conditions. It won’t be easy to do this in such a remote, extreme place. One option being considered are ROVs or remotely operated vehicles that are lowered down the borehole in the ice.

Sources: New Scientist, NBC News and Business Insider.