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. Dilla

    This is one of the least informative articles I've seen lately.. How about actually including some facts like why they were drilling in the first place? If they presumed that there was nothing below the ice, what were they looking for?
    This is the type of discovery that may prove that life has the ability to exist where people don't expect it (other planets as well perhaps?) – yet all the scientists want to do is eat the newly discovered aquatic-alien-beast?

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

    Discovery is nice, but one day we will discover something that will spread a dangerous contagion to the general populace of either animals or human that should've remained undiscovered.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  3. BloggerForIQ

    1- NASA was using cameras developed for the harsh conditions of space due to the equally harsh nature of 600 feet of ice, crushing depths and below freezing temperatures
    2 – We have never seen below the ice pack...this might hold some information!
    3 – While I dont agree with global warming, looking at the ice pack may hold clues to earlier thaws
    4 – Stop making this about jobs overseas

    March 16, 2010 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jon

    So many negative and whiney people on here.

    As humans we should constrantly be exploring. Someone mentioned that the shrimp could have a germ that wipes us all out.....haha. Well Mr. Glass half empty, what is that shrimp has the cure for cancer??

    March 16, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  5. MikeyNYC

    Its amazing how little some people know about not only our own planet, but the physical makeup of other planets and moons in our solar system. NASA funds such deep ice explorations because it is the closest thing to the conditions found on some of other planets and moons in our solar system. What NASA may discover "under the ice" can then be utilitized when we make exploratory missions to these other planets/moons. Did you not realize that astronauts do space suit training in swimming pools, since it most closely mimics the experience they will have in space?

    This new discovery, along with the discovery of hot and cold "seeps" on the bottom of the oceans have shown us that life can exist and survive not only in the absence of sunlight, but also in the absence of any gas or mineral that we thought could support life. It was only 20 or so years ago that the hot and cold seeps were discovered on the bottom of the oceans and until that time, it was thought that the only life that could survive on earth was such life that had some access to sunlight. These discoveries have shown us that life is much heartier and stronger than we ever thought imaginable, which leads us to believe even more strongly that there may be life on other planets.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  6. sec

    Does it matter if there is live under the 600 feet of ice? Does it matter that the Moon and or Mars had traces of water? Ah no. We cannot and will not live in space or under water on a permanant basis. Take the billions of dollars spent on Nasa and redirect it to problems on our own planet.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Brian from Texas

    Amazing discovery! Well worth the money.
    Discovery things like this, learning more about the world and universe we live in is part of the experience of the human species. Doing things like this is part of something bigger than ourselves, our government, or our taxes. Also, I always wondered why we assumed life on other planets can only exist in conditions similar to the one humans can live in. Isn't nature and the ability to adapt and survive amazing?

    March 16, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Mikey

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

    March 16, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Derek

    THe author clearly states they were getting their first glimpse at the underside of an ice shelf. This is relelvant science because it could help predict how fast ice shelves might melt or discover other geological proccesses involved. Who knows what else they can discover, they found proof that life can exsist in extremely cold water, not just extremely hot before they even reached their objective. Be thankful that your country spends money on research like this even if this is a recession. In order for countries to expand and grow, you need to invest in technology and knowledge. Some countries can't afford to invest in anything and they are stuck in endless poverty because the economy never expands. Just because your pea brain can't think of any reasons an exploration like this is worthwhile, doesn't mean someone a lot smarter doesn't have a perfectly worthwhile reason.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ricky

    I noticed a lot of comments were making jokes about this and that's OK. I think this is a huge discovery & commend Nasa. Sort of shows how little we actually know about our own planet & beyond.
    I hope research continues about this discovery, much can be learned.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  11. William Bray

    ANd now they're looking for frozen moons? I hope when they get their equipment up there, they'll have some eating utensils handy

    March 16, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Lauren

    Mike, of 1:05 pm. Are you ignorant of the fact of what happened to the pigmys in the amaze. Many died from our 'commond cold'

    March 16, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  13. dsl

    All these people making comments denigrating science exploration for knowledge for knowledge's sake show how narrow minded they are. Where we we be if we only spend money on welfare, unemployment, social programs, etc? These programs are necessary but not an investment in the future of mankind. The investments in pure science have enriched mankind many times over in the advanced electronic, medical and commercial products we use everyday. What will our children dream and aspire toward if all we can think of is mundane everyday living? (I am sure lot of you are going flame me for being elitist – let the Cultural Revolution begin!)

    March 16, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  14. GEOM

    Wow. I find it deeply amusing and intensely satisfying that all of the posts bashing NASA, ice shelf research, or scientific discovery in general are poorly written, misspleled, or just – for lack of a better term – wonky. This sort of work is extremely important. "Why can't we fix our issues on the surface before we go digging around under the ice?" Because the issues on our planet will never be solved until we are able to expand our resources and territory. Get a clue, read a dikshunarry, and support NASA and other agencies like it. If we cared more about exploration and science and less about say, professional sports, we would have popsicle stands on Mars and Luna would be a military duty station.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Craig

    It's good to see that NASA, who can't afford to build America's next space-going vehicle, has enough money to dig a 600 ft. hole for shrimp.

    I've read some complaints about the article's author ignoring certain facts and I'd like to make a few guesses:

    What was NASA doing drilling a 600 ft. hole anyway?
    Obviously, looking for oil. 🙂

    Why would the scientists think about eating a new species of shrimp?
    Part of NASA's directive is to find as many uses for Old Bay Seasoning as possible.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
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