There’s a lot more going on beneath those huge sheets of Antarctic ice than you might think. NASA researchers uncovered a major surprise in December: The team drilled an eight-inch hole and stuck a video camera 600 feet down, hoping to observe the underbelly of the thick ice sheet. To their amazement, a curious critter swam into view and clung to the video camera’s cable. The three-inch crustacean in their video is a Lyssianasid amphipod, a relative of a shrimp. The team also retrieved what they believe to be a tentacle from a jellyfish.
Researchers previously believed that nothing more complex than microbes could live in such a hostile place, beneath an ice sheet in total darkness. While complex organisms have shown up before in retreating glaciers, this seems to be the first time any have been found 600 feet down below an intact sheet of ice.
If crustaceans really can tough it out buried beneath the ice, perhaps complex organisms can live in more places than we give them credit for. Astrobiology enthusiasts are probably already thinking of the ice-covered moons in our solar system, like the Jovian moon Europa and the Saturnian moon Enceladus and wondering whether extraterrestrial critters could be lurking beneath those frozen surfaces. First, though, there’s a lot left to sort out about this intriguing puzzle.
Source: Discover Magazine