Although it has been a lot of years since we humans are living on earth, we haven’t explored a lot of places and haven’t found a lot of things yet. In a quest to explore such places, a new exploration deep beneath Antarctica by the British Antarctic Survey has found strange life forms which break all the rules of life.
This was located under an ice shelf some 260 kilometres away from the open ocean. While tunnelling around 900m into the ice shelf, the drill hit a boulder, and they found a community of creatures latched onto the rock with the help of a camera attached to the drill.
The team discovered marine organisms belonged to several unknown species.
This new discovery is surprising since these organisms are sessile, meaning they are fixed and cannot move.
Previous researches have found some small mobile scavengers and predators, such as fish, worms, and krill, in similar Antarctic habitats to this. Being immobile means that these creatures are filter feeders and rely on food to drift past from above.
These creatures are far away from open water and sunlight. They live under complete darkness at temperatures of around -2.2 °C. The new study estimates that this community is up to 1500 kilometres upstream from the closest source of photosynthesis, raising questions about how they get energy and nutrients.
Dr Huw Griffiths, biogeographer and lead author of British Antarctic Survey said that the discovery has raised a lot of questions regarding these organisms, including how long they have been there, what they eat, what would happen if the ice shelf collapsed and many more.
Dr Griffiths added that 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 and amazingly adapted to a frozen world.
It is also possible that these organisms get their energy via other means, such as from glacial melts or via chemotrophic processes(Chemotrophs) from methane seeps. Finding this is a herculean task as the location is hard to access.
Ice shelves cover roughly a third of the Antarctic’s 5 million square kilometres of the continental shelf, much of which has remained totally unexplored. With this finding, we can assume that there could be life beneath the ice shelf and it is more common than previously thought.
Huw J. Griffiths, Paul Anker, Katrin Linse, Jamie Maxwell, Alexandra L. Post, Craig Stevens, Slawek Tulaczyk and James A. Smith Breaking All the Rules: The First Recorded Hard Substrate Sessile Benthic Community Far Beneath an Antarctic Ice Shelf Front. Mar. Sci., 15 February 2021 DOI: doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2021.642040