A team of polar scientists has discovered mysterious creatures in the depths of the Filchner-Ronne ice shelf in Antarctica. The observation occurred at random, while drilling the site, located in the southwest of the Weddell Sea, to collect sediment samples. Using a GoPro camera, 22 organisms were identified on a rock, 800 meters deep in the ocean.
The Breaking All the Rules: The First Recorded Hard Substrate Sessile Benthic Community Far Beneath an Antarctic Ice Shelf survey was conducted by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and published in the magazine Frontiers in Marine Science. She is the first to document the animals, described as sponges and possibly other invertebrates that are still unknown.
The news surprised experts on the subject because hitherto unprecedented life in deep layers. This is because the lack of nutrients, in a region under complete darkness and with temperatures of -2.2 ° C, hinders the maintenance conditions of other species.
“We were hoping to recover a sediment core under the ice shelf, so it was a surprise when we hit the rock and saw on the video that animals were living on it,” said James Smith, a geologist in the UK’s polar science department.
“This discovery is one of those exciting accidents that push ideas [of study possibilities] in a different direction and show us that marine life in Antarctica is incredibly special,” said a marine biologist and research leader at BAS Huw Griffiths .
“[Observing organisms on the spot] raises many more questions than answers. For example, how would they have gotten there? What do they feed on? How long have they been in hiding? Thus, we will have to find innovative ways to continue the study and answer any new questions we have ”, pointed out the scientist.
In this context, there is a suggestion that perhaps the creatures may be very old and have an advanced survival system. So far, those responsible for the work have analyzed about 200 square meters in the region, of a habitat composed of more than 1.5 million square kilometers.
Since little is known about the organisms’ origins and compositions, Griffiths questions what would happen to communities if the ice shelf collapsed. They may also be threatened due to climate change, which would end their shelters.
“Although it is based on limited observations, it is a surprising discovery and an important piece in the puzzle of Antarctic sponges,” said César Cárdenas Alarcón, a biologist at the Instituto Antarctica Chileno in an interview with Gizmodo.
“The work highlights the importance of developing interdisciplinary research to improve our understanding of these rare communities and to understand potential scenarios, as the collapse of the ice shelves is expected to increase as warming continues to affect Antarctica,” he added. .