While studying the effects of climate change on the Antarctic ice, scientists made an unexpected discovery. In the waters of a hidden river, they found a living, independent ecosystem inhabited by small crustaceans.
Although the conditions in Antarctica are extreme, the continent is home to many living organisms. As it turns out, his ice cream hides many secrets. One of them was found by a group of New Zealand scientists who were studying the Ross Shelf Glacier.
River inside the ice
The original aim of the study was to search for the mouth of the Antarctic river, running deep beneath the surface of the ice. Its course provides valuable information on the direction of glacier melting processes caused by global warming.
As the scientists drilled into the thick layer of ice, they saw an unexpected sight. At a depth of 500 meters below the ice, the camera penetrated the “river”. As it turned out, inhabited.
“We thought something was wrong with our equipment, but after a while the camera caught focus and we saw lots of tiny crustaceans no larger than five millimeters in size,” says Craig Stevens of the New Zealand National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA).
“Entering the Hidden World”
The mysterious creatures have been identified as obunogi (Amphipoda). These tiny crustaceans can survive in a wide variety of conditions, but 300 species take a liking to Antarctica’s coastal waters. For the first time, however, their presence inside the ice block was documented.
“Being able to observe and sample this river was like the first entry into a hidden world,” said Huw Horgan of Victoria University of Wellington.
Scientists left some of the measuring instruments in the river to further observe the ecosystem. The samples of water with microorganisms were sent to the laboratory.
Main photo source: NIWA / Craig Stevens