Under the Filchner Ice Shelf in Antarctica, an international team of scientists has found organisms that they cannot yet classify. The discovery was announced today by the journal Frontiers in Marine Science.
The study of ice shelves is difficult: this requires drilling a massive layer of ice, which is associated with high financial costs and efforts. When the British Antarctic Survey stumbled upon a cobblestone in the wellbore, it decided to survey it with a camera.
The researchers noticed unusual creatures at a depth of about a kilometer: they “settled” on a large stone that fell under the drill. Visually, they resembled sponges – bottom organisms that filter nutrients from the water.
Where these creatures get food, scientists have not yet figured out: this living community is somewhere between 625 and 1500 km from the nearest region of photosynthesis. “How did these animals get there? We do not yet know where the food comes from and how often they feed,” the authors of the publication shrug their shoulders.
It is the first scientifically recorded benthic community on a solid substrate deep beneath the Antarctic ice shelf. Previously, in such places, only mobile small creatures were found that are actively looking for food: krill, worms, small fish.