Scientists have discovered an unexpected treasure house of life forms under the Antarctic ice shelf

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6903dfd28d72947 - Scientists have discovered an unexpected treasure house of life forms under the Antarctic ice shelf

this new study, published in contemporary biology earlier this month, found more species in one place than previously recorded on all ice shelves on the frozen continent. After drilling two holes in the exstrom ice shelf in the Weddell Sea, researchers collected seabed samples in 2018. According to a press release from the British Antarctic survey, they found that the biodiversity of the seabed was “richer than many open water samples found on the continental shelf, where there were sources of light and food”. Among the species studied, the annual growth rate of four species is “comparable to that of similar animals in open water habitats”

the marine organisms found by researchers include colony forming invertebrates called shellfish and snake insects. These creatures are devours of suspended organisms, which means they sit on the bottom of the sea and grab floating organic debris. The researchers suspect that they are eating seaweed brought under the ice shelf by the current

David Barnes, the lead author of the research report, said in a press release: “It is a complete surprise to find so many lives living under these extreme conditions, reminding us that Antarctic marine life is so unique and special. Surprisingly, we have found evidence of so many animal types, most of which feed on micro algae, but no plants or algae can survive in this environment.”

another surprise of the researchers is that the ice and snow ecosystem seems so old. Using a technique called carbon dating, the researchers found that the fragments of animal carcasses they collected were 5800 years old

however, the fact that animals have lived under the Antarctic ice shelf for thousands of years does not mean that they will survive in the coming centuries: the British Antarctic survey pointed out in a press release that climate change and the accelerated collapse of the ice shelf mean that “time to study and protect these ecosystems is running out”

the researchers wrote in their paper: “in most places, it may be cold, dark and food scarce, but with the disappearance of conditions under the ice shelf caused by global warming, the least disturbed habitat on earth may become the first Habitat to become extinct.”