Jurrasic Park told us, "Life finds a way." Outside of non-science fiction, it still rings true.
Most of the times we are clear on how and where life can exist. Earth is the perfect storm in space where the right amount of heat, moisture, sheltering atmosphere and so on provides a place where life can exist. But even on Earth, there are certain places which can be ‘too extreme’ for any survival. However, scientists have discovered life in a place where the least expected it- boulder under Antarctic ice shelves.
The confounding discovery was made while drilling through Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf, about under 900 meters of ice. Under the shelf, in complete darkness and harsh sub-zero temperature, scientists discovered a lifeform. They are mostly stationary animals – like sponges. Some of them are possibly never before discovered species.
“It was a genuine surprise to see these animals there. It's about 160 kilometers further under the ice shelf than we had ever seen a sponge before,” said lead author Huw Griffiths. So far away from sources of food and sunlight, they were not expecting to encounter life. the team was there to collect other mineral samples.
Griffiths said filter-feeding animals like these generally dominate landscapes with sun and food. But as you in the deeper seas, where such resources are limited, you get mobile animals, like crabs, who can move around in search of food.
Accidental discovery of extreme life! Far underneath the ice shelves of the #Antarctic, there’s more life than expected: https://t.co/atdkiv1GrA BAS marine biologist Dr Huw Griffiths @griffiths_huw explains... pic.twitter.com/Z6OUw4oQNs— British Antarctic Survey (@BAS_News) February 15, 2021
According to Griffiths, they must have specially adapted to survive in such extreme location. They can probably go months or years without food, he guesses.
The team believes this discovery can open new avenues in medical, engineering or other scientific researches. We can probably learn a thing or two from their survival mechanisms.
The team now needs “smarter” technology to get a closer look at these animals. So far, they have only the camera footage from the equipment they lowered below the ice-shelf.
“There are so many questions. There is life on Earth that isn't playing by the rules that biologists understand,” he added. He believes there could be a whole world down there that we know nothing about. Not the world of Journey to the Centre of the Earth, but more docile one.