Scientists surprised as abundant animal life found deep under Antarctica ice sheet

WION Web Team
New Delhi Published: Dec 21, 2021, 05:28 PM(IST)

Representative image Photograph:( Reuters )

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With Antarctica's frozen landscape and unforgiving temperatures, it is hard to imagine life would exist hundreds of metres below the ice

Antarctica is an icy world. Temperatures go unimaginably low in winters. You may have seen viral videos of researchers bringing hot noodles in open while in Antarctica and the boiling food freezing in literally some secionds. Yes, the continent supports life. Penguins and whales have called this habitat home for thousands of years. But the continent isn't exactly what comes to mind when someone says 'flourishing wildlife' or 'abundance of life'. The popular perception of Antarctica remains that of a cold unforgiving icy land that has claimed lives of many explorers and researchers. 

But nature is wonderful. And life has the tenacity to hold on against most difficult of odds. A new discovery in Antarctica has proven (again) just that.

On the surface, Antarctica looks like an icy graveyard. But researchers found that abundant life had been thriving under the ice shelf for thousands of years.

Researchers from UK and Germany found life deep below Ekstrom ice shelf in Antarctica.

This included animals. Though they are mostly worms and other animals that consume algae, discovery of life deep withing the frozen continent is in itself a big thing. It was previously thought that this was not possible as hundreds of metres of ice sheets did not provide favourable conditions for life to flourish.

The scientists dug two boreholes. One went on for 192 metres through ice. The other went through 190 metres of ice. And below it, scientists found a thriving ecosystem of animal life. They found  77 species from 49 different genera bryozoans.

Carbon dating yielded that the ecosystem had been thriving for 6000 years!

The researchers have published their results in the journal Current Biology.

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