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  • Deep beneath the frozen expanses of our planet's southernmost continent, life is stirring.

  • Life that was never supposed to be there at all. And scientists have caught it on camera

  • ...completely by accident. Antarctica is not a constant continent, but

  • an ever shifting mass of ice. On average, Antarctica contains 90 percent of the world's

  • glacier ice, and while most of that makes up the desolate expanse that covers Antarctica's

  • land, key pieces of it are also hanging off the edge over nothing but ocean,

  • in what's called ice shelves. And it's what's underneath the ice shelves

  • that's surprised us. In Antarctica's surrounding waters we find all kinds of penguins, seals,

  • and whales, but these all rely on the open ocean full of krill, fish, and other tasty treats.

  • Outside of this realm of big predators and

  • tiny krill, the masters of the coldest, darkest places under the ice shelf are things like

  • jellyfish, worms, crustaceans: life forms that can move around, and chase after their food.

  • Or...so we thought. But scientists just found

  • evidence of a very different kind of life under 900 meters of Antarctica's ice

  • that's over half a mile. A research team from the British Antarctic Survey initially bored down

  • into the ice shelf to take a sample of the seabed underneath.

  • They bumped into a boulder that prevented them from taking their sample, but disappointment

  • turned into awe when their camera showed them that the boulder was unexpectedly covered

  • in living creatures. At temperatures around -2.2 degrees celsius

  • and in complete darkness, these ghostly life forms are the first stationary organisms ever

  • discovered under an ice shelf. And not only that, but they're totally defying all our

  • expectations of what life truly needs to survive. Here is this community of rock-dwelling life,

  • seemingly thriving 260 kilometers away from the open ocean and as much as 1500 kilometers

  • away from the nearest source of photosynthesis. We're not even totally sure what most of

  • these living things are. The team thinks that many of them could be sponges of some kind,

  • but as for the rest... they may be totally new species! And I think it's hard to really

  • understand from these images just how much this discovery changes.

  • Seeing significant life like this in places we didn't think life was possible completely

  • shifts the way we need to think not only about our world today, but also about the fossil record.

  • Paleogeologists have used fossils

  • of organisms like these to determine the positions of ancient ice shelves through eons past so...

  • discovering them where we couldn't think they could be...

  • means we may have to rethink some stuff. The team who uncovered this surprise are now

  • faced with the challenge of trying to find out more. This sampling location is 260 kilometers

  • from where the researchers can anchor their main ships so getting there is tough.

  • And again, it's under more than 900 meters of ice,

  • so...getting samples is gonna require some serious ingenuity.

  • They're hoping to use a technique called environmental DNA sampling, allowing them to analyze the

  • genetic material floating in the water around these organisms. Some sampling and further

  • images could be taken with tiny remote operated vehicles. These techniques will hopefully tell us

  • what these life forms are; what they eat; how they can survive there; and if there are more

  • Studying these improbable creatures will help us understand

  • more about the life forms that may have evolved on earth during periods in

  • its history where it was covered in ice. It could also help us better understand the complex

  • dynamics of Antarctic ocean ecosystems, which we are clearly still trying to figure out,

  • and how these are going to change as our whole planet changes.

  • And, as always, studying extreme organisms here on earth gives us clues as to what strange

  • life may be lurking out there in space on some other dark, frozen planet.

  • So hopefully, scientists will get to explore all of this before the Antarctic ice shelves shift

  • or collapse in the face of the climate crisis, which could potentially obscure these fascinating new

  • communities that we've just discovered forever. If you want to learn more on another surprising

  • discovery lurking below Antarctica (although, a little deeper down in this case), check

  • out this video here. Keep coming back to Seeker for all the science news that might surprise

  • you, and if you have questions or comments on this discovery, leave 'em for us in the

  • comments down below. As always, thanks so much for watching, and I'll see ya in the

  • next one.

Deep beneath the frozen expanses of our planet's southernmost continent, life is stirring.

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Scientists Just Discovered Mysterious Life Forms Hiding Beneath Antarctica

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    Summer posted on 2021/07/05
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