March 16th, 2010
10:39 AM ET

NASA discovers life hidden 600 feet below Antarctic ice

A three-inch long Lyssianasid amphipod (seen in orange) was found on the underside of the McMurdo ice shelf in Antarctica.

Six hundred feet below the Antarctic ice, where no light can be found, NASA scientists made a startling discovery – a swimming shrimp-like creature that could challenge the idea of where and how forms of life can survive.

While the creature is small itself -– only about three inches long -– its impact could be tremendous.

A NASA team had lowered a small video camera to get the first-ever photograph of the underside of an ice shelf – and that’s when they saw the swimming creature, according to a NASA document.

The discovery could shake the very foundation of what kind of creatures can survive in certain atmospheres.

"We were operating on the presumption that nothing's there," NASA ice scientist Robert Bindschadler told the Associated Press. "It was a shrimp you'd enjoy having on your plate."

"We were just gaga over it," he told the AP.

The creature, a Lyssianasid amphipod, could lead the way for larger expeditions into harsher environments that scientists previously believed could not support life – both on the Earth and even frozen moons in outer space.

soundoff (608 Responses)
  1. Bob

    Thank You!! I agree, how can people complain about this? or NASA? Maybe you people complaining about funding of NASA want us to outsource our science and research to China.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  2. NealB

    Interesting comments all, some even pretty funny.
    For all you extreme liberals who want to feed the world with the few bucks this cost- get real, most, if not all the money we spend on feeding the poor, especially overseas goes to waste, or to people who hate us, or gets "stolen" and resold on black markets by the corrupt governments we are helping. I have no problem keeping the money here. We need to spend more money in the US on US projects that hire US people, Oh are you extreme sociopathic conservative nitwits listening too? It's not Obama money or bush money- it's our money being used to good purpose by good Americans doing research that can help us understand not just what extreme environments are like but discovering, to our surprise that life exists in those environments. This project was probably a joint effort with other branches of the scientific community like NOAA. This is the one place where what little we spend on these projects usually pay off in big ways. Take all the money we P*SS away on helping people who hate us and spend it on this stuff and the recession would be over in a week and all you idiots would actually have jobs. P.S. I think the scientists are also human and deserve to make a joke- again Political correctness gone too far.
    P.P.S now we know what all those endangered Polar Bears have been eating.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Gene

    We call him Fishy

    March 16, 2010 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Lee

    It's nice to know that on the lonely icy moons of Jupiter, we might enjoy some shrimp cocktail.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Tim

    These comments are hilarious

    March 16, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  6. joedacs

    Hmmm, this thread appears to prove that Goodwin's law has a derivative corollary: "As an online discussion regarding NASA grows longer, the probability of commentary regarding God and/or "forget space exploration, focus on planet earth issues" approaches 1".

    March 16, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Dustbuster

    Did the thing just fall down a hole via the drill?

    NASA wasn't drilling for oil, were they?

    March 16, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Lyla

    TimInNC – Good point. I work in the field of biotechnology, and often times, research doesn't have an ultimate, end goal in mind. Many signifigant breakthroughs are "stumbled upon", believe it or not.

    I think it's fascinating that a creature can survive in the Antarctic 600 feet below. It begs the question what else is surviving (and perhaps flourishing) down there.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Pauline

    Mike –
    Don't forget that those who complain about jobs going overseas are also the ones who buy crap made overseas from WalMart and friends, thus undermining their own jobs.

    NASA works in Earth's extreme environments to test equipment and techniques that they hope to use elsewhere some day. It's financially responsible of them to test this stuff in the Arctic before they try to operate it remotely on Europa.

    I love this story, it brings home the point that this world still has new discoveries to offer!

    March 16, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jim

    Lots of good comments. The human race is inherently destructive. As with everything else, humans will eradicate and wipe out species and environments. Predators by nature. I wish there WAS intelligent life out in the cosmos which would come down here and give us a dose of our own medicine.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. jay

    Why do people still expect to find "no life" where there is no sunlight? Hello... caves, hydrothermal vents, brine pools under the ocean... these have supported life for millions of years with no sunlight. I think the only place on Earth that has no life is in a volcano WHILE it is erupting. Everywhere else is fair game.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Creationist

    How many times will scientist be proven dumb before they get it?

    March 16, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Vegetarian

    Can't we think of anything else other than eating something discovered at quite an unusual place? I wonder why Human Beings can't be Humane. And why don't we try to eat a Tiger OR a Lion and always concentrate on something that is less powerful and defenselessthan humans?

    Great Discovery anyway. Hope we get more answers about life through this discovery.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Sick of CNN readers' ignorance

    The sheer volume – and variety – of ignorance in these comments is staggering.

    There are a lot of good reasons for drilling in ice, rock, etc., and it is not unusual for agencies involved in mapping the Earth from space to also be involved in discovery on the ground. Nobody really wanted to eat the shrimp. The things NASA does are not useless, no matter what Glenn Beck tells you. Not everybody's job every day of the week can be about saving starving babies or fixing our economy, unless you also want to equivocate over the usefulness or lack thereof of the dude who serves you coffee at Dunkin' Donuts and take a few hours to lambaste carnival workers for not doing enough to stop slaughter in Africa (which I'm sure some of you do).

    Did I cover enough of the idiocy here? If I left any of your ridiculous comments out, I apologize.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jeremiah

    @ Jessica: Ah, a reference to the "illegal" wars we're opposed to all the legal wars, I presume? War stopped being "proper" when well-dressed gentlemen no longer lined up in formation with single-shot muskets. War is always going to be disagreeable to someone, particularly if they're close to all the destruction; hardly means that the war shouldn't be fought.

    In getting back to this thread's subject, I'm happy to see others chaffing at NASA's spending. Pure research does have its uses, but when I hear talk about colonizing other planets I have to laugh. Even if you find a thousand shrimp on Jupiter, the nonsensical dream of living on a distant star needs to be checked – research is one thing, but we need to focus on making this planet better (not abandoning it for a frozen rock with a few frozen molecules of water and a handful of fossils).

    March 16, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
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