A group of scientists have revealed they accidentally found sea life beneath the ice shelves of the Antarctic during an exploratory survey whereby these researchers drilled through 900 meters of ice.
According to the study, the shocking discovery in the antarctic is the first to discover the existence of stationary animals that are similar to sponges and potentially several previously unknown species attached to a boulder on the seafloor.
Biogeographer and lead author of the research, Dr Huw Griffiths of British Antarctic Survey, said that “This discovery is one of those fortunate accidents that pushes ideas in a different direction and shows us that Antarctic marine life is incredibly special and amazingly adapted to a frozen world.
“Our discovery raises so many more questions than it answers, such as how did they get there? What are they eating? How long have they been there? How common are these boulders covered in life? Are these the same species as we see outside the ice shelf or are they new species? And what would happen to these communities if the ice shelf collapsed?”
The floating ice shelves still represent the greatest unexplored habitat in the Southern Ocean, scientists say.
Footage captured from a camera sent down the hole captured the existence of stationary animals, like sponges and previously unknown species, which were attached to the boulder.
Fears of the collapse of the ice shelves have also been expressed by these scientists due to climate. They said that it was crucial to take steps to further study and protect these ecosystems.
Griffiths added, “To answer our questions, we will have to find a way of getting up close with these animals and their environment – and that’s under 900m of ice, 260km (160 miles) away from the ships where our labs are.”
A member of the drilling team, Dr James Smith, a geologist, noted, “We were expecting to retrieve a sediment core from under the ice shelf, so it came as a bit of a surprise when we hit the boulder and saw from the video footage that there were animals living on it.”