In Antarctica, under 500 meters of ice, they found a lost world: teeming with life

New Zealand researchers have discovered an incredible lost world under Antarctic ice 500 meters deep.

The camera fell into the Antarctic iceberg. Authors: NIWA / Craig Stevens

In Antarctica, under 500 meters of ice, an impressive lost world full of life was discovered. Researchers conducted research to examine the impact of climate change in the region, when tools lowered into a giant hole formed in the ice were literally surrounded by a “swarm” of small crustaceans, very similar to shrimp. The researchers hoped for everything but to discover a living and pulsating ecosystem whose dynamics and ecological balance are completely unknown.

The incredible discovery took place a few hundred meters from the shelf ice of Ross, the largest shelf glacier in Antarctica, with an extension comparable to the French (in 2013 it covered an area of ​​over 500 thousand square kilometers). Scientists have long known that this ice hides a dense network of freshwater lakes and rivers, but it is an environment worth exploring. The “Lost World” was identified at the center of a possible estuary discovery in the Ross Sea.

The first to discover the potential estuary was Professor Hugh Horgan, a professor of geophysical glaciology at the Te Herenga Wack Center for Antarctic Research at the University of Victoria in Wellington, New Zealand, and the leader of the expedition. The researcher analyzed satellite images of the Ross Glacier shelf months earlier when he came across an interesting fault that could indicate an estuary. “Watching and tasting this river was like being the first to enter a hidden world. There is a small valley on the surface of the pack ice that meanders to the coast, ”Dr. Horgan said in a press release. “Below is a cave, resembling a cathedral, several hundred meters high, full of life. All this is hidden under a huge pack of ice. It was an incredibly exciting expedition due to the rare opportunity to explore this type of environment. We left there tools that should provide observations for years, “the expert added.

The crustaceans surrounding the cell fell into the pit. 1 credit

The animals seen are amphipods, a group of crustaceans that are related to shrimp, crabs and lobsters, which play an extremely important role in the food chain. The observed specimens probably belong to a species already known to science, have a length of 5 millimeters. Researchers drilled more holes in the ice, and when they lowered the tools into the lost world, they thought there was a technical problem. Only after the focus improved did they realize that the cameras were surrounded and “disturbing” the animals. Experts were genuinely enthusiastic about the observation: “We jumped for joy because the fact that all these animals are swimming around our equipment means that there is undoubtedly an important ecosystem,” said Dr. Craig Stevens, a physical oceanographer at the National institute. New Zealand Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA).

Researchers took water samples for special research in the laboratory, “hunting” for the DNA of species involved in the ecosystem. According to experts, in fact, sighted amphipods are only one component of this habitat and must also understand what they eat. The remaining devices will collect information on temperature, water flows, pressure and other chemical and physical characteristics useful for a better description of the environment.

Antarctica and the Arctic have been particularly affected by climate change, and their ecosystems are among the most endangered on the planet, and many species, such as polar bears and emperor penguins, are threatened with extinction by 2100 if we do not stop greenhouse gas emissions. More knowledge of these ecosystems can help us predict the consequences for the polar environment and protect it.

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