New Delhi (NVI): Scientists have accidentally found life buried under 3,000 feet of ice in Antarctica, challenging the assumption that nothing could live in such conditions.
Scientists previously thought Antarctica’s frigid temperatures and lack of light and food made it impossible for living creatures to thrive.
Researchers stumbled on the life-bearing rock after sinking a borehole through nearly a kilometre of the Filchner-Ronne ice shelf on the south-eastern Weddell Sea to obtain a sediment core from the seabed.
While the boulder scuppered their chances of obtaining the core, footage from a video camera sent down the hole captured the first images of organisms stuck to a rock far beneath an ice shelf.
Photos and video footage of the boulder show that it is home to at least two types of sponge, one of which has a long stem that opens into a head. But other organisms, which could be tube worms or stalked barnacles, also appear to be growing on the rock.
— British Antarctic Survey (@BAS_News) February 15, 2021
Experts from the British Antarctic Survey drilled through 2,860 feet of ice before making the discovery.
“The area underneath these ice shelves is probably one of the least-known habitats on Earth,” said Huw Griffiths, one of the scientists who made the discovery.
“We didn’t think that these kinds of animals, like sponges, would be found there,” he added.
The Filchner-Ronne ice shelf is a massive floating ice sheet that stretches out from Antarctica.
It spans more than 579,000 square miles, but little has been explored under the ice.
Scientists said they were drilling through the ice sheet to collect samples from the sea floor. Instead, their camera hit a boulder. When they reviewed the camera’s footage, it revealed the discovery.
These animals were found about 160 miles from the open sea.