Carcasses of tiny animals sealed off by a one kilometer thick ice layer found on Antarctica

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Hot water drill on Antarctica - Image Credit: Billy Collins/SALSA Science Team

Scientists have found remnants of small creatures in Antarctica under a deep layer of ice. The remains were found in mud that was brought up through a borehole. The findings might tell us something about the possibility of life on icy planets or moons

The findings came to light in December via the Subglacial Antarctic Lakes Scientific Access expedition. The lake that was researched (called Lake Mercer) is located approximately 600 kilometers from the south pole, under an ice layer that is kilometer thick and thousands of years old.

When the researchers looked at the mud with a microscope small crushed spiders were found, as well as crustaceans with legs. "Other creatures were more like worms," said David Harwood of the Nebraska University in a interview with science magazine Nature. Tardigrades were also among those found but further DNA research must further define which other animals are involved.

It is an intriguing find, responds glacologist Slawek Tulaczyk from the University of California. "It is unclear whether these remains have been left behind by beings who have lived in the lake, or that they have been transported by, for example, ocean water."

With carbon dating, we have to figure out how old the remains are. That can give direct clues on how and when these animals have come to Lake Mercer, says Tulaczyk.

The possibly of extraterrestrial life

It is possible that there are still live specimens of the animals in the lake under the ice. Harwood states that it is an interesting thought that life can exist under these extreme conditions, a lake on Antarctica that has been shut off thousands of years from the oceans and atmosphere.

If life is able to thrive down there, it will provide us with some thoughts about what we might be able to encounter elsewhere in the universe.

Sources: Nature, Subglacial Antarctic Lakes Scientific Acces via nu.nl


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