Antarctic Scientists Find Mysterious Life Lurking Beneath Ice Shelf in Antarctica

Researchers had to drill through half a mile of ice to study the animals lurking deep under an Antarctic shelf.
British Antarctic Study

Antarctic researchers stumbled upon strange creatures lurking on a rock beneath Antarctica's Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf while they were drilling through the shelf that sits against the Weddell Sea. Now, researchers are trying to figure out how they got there, according to a report.

The team of polar scientists with the British Antarctic Survey used a GoPro to examine a boulder at a depth of over 4,000 feet and found stationary animals attached to it. The area analyzed was about 200 square meters, comparable to a tennis court. The discovery of what may be a previously unknown species came as something as a “surprise for scientists,” CNET reported.

Finding life at such a depth isn't unusual in the open ocean, but 160 miles inland, under the ice shelf, previous research had never discovered any stationary life, explained Huw Griffiths, lead author and biogeographer with the British Antarctic Survey.  

”This discovery is one of those fortunate accidents that pushes ideas in a different direction and shows us that Antarctic marine life is incredibly special,” Griffiths said. He told CNET that only mobile creatures were believed to exist in that area due to a lack of nutrients.

News of the discovery was included in a research study that took place over a three year period, between 2015 and 2018. The study that was published on Monday in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science. It is the first to report the documentation of these immobile animals.

Griffith said "this discovery raises so many more questions than it answers," and explained there is a great deal to learn. He and his team are working on new and innovative ways to study these creatures, he said.


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