Scientists baffled at 'bonkers' presence of life that should not exist in Antarctica

Written on 02/17/2021
Ciarán Mather

A group of scientists have admitted that they are stumped as to why a certain region of Antarctica they have been studying contains life, even though it apparently shouldn't.

The discovery, which was made completely by accident, found marine organisms such as barnacles, sponges and tube worms on a boulder at the bottom of the sea.

The organisms were found after geologists bored a hole through the 3,000-foot-thick ice with a hot-water drill, and subsequently lowered a coring device and a video camera into the dark seawater below, around 900 metres (3,000ft) below the Antarctic ice shelf.

What made the discovery all the more peculiar was that the research team was more than 150 miles from the open ocean.

Dr. Huw Griffiths, a marine biogeographer at the British Antarctic Survey, told The Guardian: 'It’s slightly bonkers; never in a million years would we have thought about looking for this kind of life, because we didn’t think it would be there.'

He added that this is the furthest under an ice shelf that he and his team have ever seen any of these filter-feeding animals existing.

Dr. Griffiths added: 'It was a real shock to find them there, a really good shock, but we can’t do DNA tests, we can’t work out what they’ve been eating, or how old they are.'

'We don’t even know if they are new species, but they’re definitely living in a place where we wouldn’t expect them to be living.'

Arguably the most important thing to take-away from this discovery, according to Dr. Griffiths, is that it serves as a reminder that 'there are still things that we have to learn, and there are still animals out there that can break the rules that we have written for them.'

The isolated boulder community lies 500 metres under the base of the ice shelf and 160 miles (260km) from the nearest open water. 

It is believed that the discovered organisms may feed on dead plankton, which would have to be carried between 370 and 930 miles before reaching them.

The team's findings have since been published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science.

Knowing humanity's recent poor run of luck, we're just glad that they didn't find a vicious alien under the ice, like the one featured in John Carpenter's famous horror film The Thing!

If you enjoyed this article, you may want to read this story about a new research vessel being developed that will be named after the famous Irish Antarctic explorer, Tom Crean.

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