Strange creatures accidentally discovered beneath Antarctica’s ice shelves

Far underneath the ice shelves of the Antarctic, there’s more life than expected, finds a recent study in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science.

During an exploratory survey, researchers drilled through 900 meters of ice in the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf, situated on the south eastern Weddell Sea. At a distance of 260km away from the open ocean, under complete darkness and with temperatures of -2.2°C, very few animals have ever been observed in these conditions.

But this study is the first to discover the existence of stationary animals—similar to sponges and potentially several previously unknown species—attached to a boulder on the sea floor.

“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,” says biogeographer and lead author, Dr. Huw Griffiths of British Antarctic Survey.

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