Welcome to Current TV
Scientists find shrimp-like creature for first time under Antarctic ice
Shrimp are swimming crustaceans found widely around the world in both fresh and salt water. Shrimp are an important food source for larger animals from fish to whales. Shrimp are small creatures but definitely larger than microscopic microbes. Technically, the "shrimp" is not a shrimp but a Lyssianasid amphipod, which is distantly related to shrimp.
A finding of such a creature implies other larger organisms that feed off shrimp. There is also another problem though. Under the glacier it is very cold and dark. Both conditions are quite forbidding for any life. So how can it be?
"We were operating on the presumption that nothing's there," said NASA ice scientist Robert Bindschadler, who will be presenting the initial findings and a video at an American Geophysical Union this month. "It was a shrimp you'd enjoy having on your plate."
"We were just gaga over it," he said of the 3 inch long, orange critter starring in their two minute video.
The video is likely to inspire experts to rethink what they know about life in harsh environments. And it has scientists musing that if shrimp like creatures can be found below 600 feet of Antarctic ice in subfreezing dark water, what about other hostile places?
What about Europa, a frozen moon of Jupiter? Many have speculated that under its thick surface ice layer lies a vast and frigid ocean. If the Antarctic shrimp can survive under a glacier perhaps its distant cousins can too.
Most planetary scientists believe that a layer of liquid water exists beneath Europa's surface, kept warm by tidally-generated heat. Surface temperature average about −260 °F at the equator and only −370 °F at the poles, keeping Europa's icy crust very hard. The first hints of a subsurface ocean came from theoretical considerations of tidal heating (a consequence of Europa's slightly eccentric orbit and orbital resonance with the other Galilean moons).
In Antarctica: "They are looking at the equivalent of a drop of water in a swimming pool that you would expect nothing to be living in and they found not one animal but two," said biologist Stacy Kim of the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories in California, who joined the NASA team later. "We have no idea what's going on down there."
"This is a first for the sub glacial environment with that level of sophistication," microbiologist Ellis-Evans of the British Antarctic Survey said. He said there have been findings somewhat similar, showing complex life in retreating ice shelves, but nothing quite directly under the ice like this. A retreating glacier is warmer and is more exposed to sunlight.
Ellis-Evans said it's possible the creatures swam in from far away and don't live there permanently.
But Kim, who is a co-author of the study, doubts it. The site in West Antarctica is at least 12 miles from the open seas. Bindschadler drilled an 8 inch wide hole and was looking at a tiny amount of water. That means it's unlikely that that two creatures swam from great distances and were captured randomly in that small of an area, she said.
Yet scientists were puzzled at what the food source would be for these critters. While some microbes can make their own food out of chemicals in the ocean and sunlight, complex life like the amphipod can not do so. So what do they eat? And what eats them?
For further information: http://pigiceshelf.nasa.gov/
more from Community:
from the community