Scientists have found a swarm of crab-like creatures 1,600 feet below the ice in Antarctica in what is termed a freshwater river. The scientists were on a mission to study the river in the Ross Ice Shelf to see how it has been impacted by climate change. To their surprise, they came across living creatures that were moving freely around their cameras. In a press release, the researchers described the creatures as amorphous—creatures in the same family as crabs, lobsters, and mites.
“For a while, we thought something was wrong with the camera but when the focus improved, we noticed a swarm of arthropods around 5mm in size,” professor of Physical Oceanography at NIWA Craig Stevens said.
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“We were jumping up and down because having all those animals swimming around our equipment means that there’s clearly an important ecosystem there. We’ve taken some water samples back to the lab to look at the DNA and other properties of the water to see what makes it unique, as we were observing something not seen in other systems close by,” Stevens said.
Although scientists have always known that there are freshwater lakes and rivers beneath the Antarctic, there has never been physical studies on the bodies. This is the first time that researchers studied one of the freshwater bodies under the ice. The discovery of wildlife will most likely attract more researchers.
The ecosystem was first observed by the project leader Huw Horgan, an associate professor of Geophysical glaciology at the Antarctic Research Center at Victoria University of Wellington. The observation was first made while studying satellite imagery of the ice shelf. He noticed an estuary under the ice shelf, the first glimpse of the ecosystem.
Horgan was excited about being the first person to discover the new world, saying that it felt as if he had stepped into a world never seen by anyone else.
Lead image via Pexels