Under 900 meters of ice and in the dark, we have just found some living beings where we thought it was not even possible
There are seas, large bodies of water, that live under a huge ice sheet. Sometimes a kilometer thick. If the oceans are already one of the great unknown in current science, those seas are true unknowns. Above all, because they have never caught our attention: we were convinced that as these regions move away from the open waters bathed in sunlight, life becomes less abundant.
Following that logic, the great Antarctic regions of the ocean had to be deserts with little biological interest. And, in fact, the studies that had been developed indicated that there were some scavengers and small predators such as fish, worms or jellyfish. But they were thought to be specimens lost in a biologically empty region without all those static organisms that live off what seeps from the surface and form the basis of normal ecosystems.
The news? That as nature never tires of hitting us with its creativity in the face, we just found sponge-like living things where we thought it wasn’t possible.
What happens where no one expects it
The team of the British Antartic Survey, drilled 900 meters of ice southeast of the Weddell Sea, on the Filchner-Ronne platform. Down there, 260 kilometers from the open sea, in the most absolute darkness and at a temperature of -2.2 degrees, the investigators fell flat on their faces with these (apparently) unknown species attached to rocks on the seabed.
Discovery flips a lot of preconceptions, but about raises questions the sea of interesting: “how did they get there [esas especies]? What are you eating? How long have they been there? How common are these life-covered rocks? Are they the same species that we know or are they different? What would happen to these communities if the ice shelf collapsed? “
After giving many turns to the structure of the currents, researchers think that these life forms survive by the current of a river that provides them with organic material from more than 1,500 kilometers away. The other options being considered is to collect nutrients from melting glaciers or from chemical compounds produced “in the heat” of methane seeps. That is much remains to be investigated.
Of course, on the other hand. Keep in mind that we are talking about an area close to a million and a half square kilometers of which only the area equivalent to the size of a tennis court has been studied. It is reasonable to expect that all those square meters await us many surprises and that some of them will help us to understand the true nature of life much better.