New Zealand scientists announced the discovery of a “hidden world” Marine animals after drilling 500 meters of ice in Antarctica. It is a giant underwater cave inhabited by an entire ecosystem of amphipods, small creatures of the same family as crabs, crabs and moths.
The discovery of life at this depth was a complete surprise to the experts, who were exploring an underground river under the Ross Ice Shelf (eastern part of the White Continent) to investigate the melt in this region.
“Being able to observe and sample this river was like being the first to enter a hidden world,” he said. guardian How Horgana glaciologist at Victoria University of Wellington and leader of the New Zealand Antarctic Institute, the organization that promoted the expedition.
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In 2020, Hourwan discovered the underground river after analyzing several satellite images of Antarctica, for which he proposed digging hundreds of meters of ice and placing several cameras in the underwater channel. However, they did not expect to find living creatures.
“We did experiments in other parts of the ice shelf and thought things were under control, but this time there were big surprises,” the professor said. Craig Stevensa physical oceanographer at the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA).
“For a while, we thought something was wrong with the camera, but when the focus improved, we noticed a swarm of arthropods around 5 mm in size‘, he added. ‘We were jumping for joy because having all these animals swimming around our team clearly meant there was an important ecosystem out there.’
Although they point out that these animals may not be new to science, it is interesting to know “where their food comes from and why their presence has been so variable during the 10 days” of observation, the oceanographer said.
Similarly, according to the scientific team, the underwater cave where the animals were found looks like a cathedralIts icy roof was uneven, with clear ripples
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Experts will continue to study this new ecosystem, because they want to understand how nutrients persist at this temperature and sea depth. However, they have also expressed concern that these hidden environments are at risk of warming due to climate change.