“It’s happening,” scientist Scott Hotaling told a reporter for OPB as he gestured across Paradise Glacier high up on Mount Rainier in Washington.
He was referencing hundreds of thousands of tiny, black worms emerging from a vast expanse of white snow.
Ice worms were first discovered in 1887 on Alaska’s Muir Glacier. They have since been spotted on most of the coastal glaciers in Alaska, British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. It was an exciting discovery because, for the longest time, biologists considered high-altitude glaciers sterile places where life was essentially impossible.
“I think they’re like the mascot of mountain glaciers in the West,” Hotaling told AccuWeather about ice worms. They’re incredibly cool, they’re incredibly abundant and they’re the largest organism on Earth that spends its whole life cycle in ice. ” When they’re around, there are hundreds per square meter. You cannot walk without stepping on them…so, it’s a very dramatic thing when they are present.”