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. Jim de Tejas

    #2 Corey – Thanks for a good laugh today.

    BTW, to the NASA naysayers – space exploration could be a cornerstone for keeping the United States a superpower into the next century – but only if we keep supporting it now, even when it seems silly to our immediate needs.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  2. David

    Shrimp says

    Get off my land!!!

    March 16, 2010 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Saro

    Enough with the politicizing of the icey amphipod. Why can't we just say it's cool and interesting and a great surprise, yey NASA!? I swear, everyone's just waiting for minute-by-minute opportunities to be shaken to the core with disdain and disgust. Yikes!

    March 16, 2010 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  4. L

    As a science geek and lover of all things aquatic...this is very cool. I am jealous of those who were present and saw the shrimp swim past the camera! What a jolly good time that must have been. In the right hands, science can benefit many. We enjoy many things today that we take for granted that were developed by NASA scientists and the military and have now become mainstream. has been known to F up a species or two in our arrogance, greed and filth but most of the true scientists doing the work out there, do it for the love of the work itself and are not corporate rapers and pillagers. Thats what politicians are for.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Eurythenes

    The comment on putting the shrimp on your plate was no doubt a reference to it's size. Most amphipods are quite small and they're not really shrimp at all. I don't know of any cultures that eat amphipods, the big ones are typically found in very deep water. Scientists sometimes have difficulty communicating with the public.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  6. William Spendlove

    Wow ladies and gentlemen.. some of the replies posted here really make a person wonder how many of you actually attended school. Yes NASA spends money researching life forms on earth in an attempt to learn something before they send multi-billion dollar space vehicles beyond our orbit.

    Congrats NASA and the team that found this new life form.. I hope it leads to many new discoveries. 🙂

    March 16, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  7. FrankS

    Is it much different from NASA studies and testing in the deserts to simulate
    lunar terrain? They have to research somewhere.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Gideon

    "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."

    March 16, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  9. twodownonetogo

    Does anyone else find it interesting that most creatures native to areas absence of light are usully muted in color, yet the picture of the specimen pitcured here is vivid in color. It truely is alien in it's own environment.

    There is no scientific basis this "creature" wasn't relocated there by virtue of the drilling or lowering of the camera from the SURFACE of the water...

    March 16, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  10. GMAN69

    When will all these arogant "scientists" realize they do not know everything. I always laugh when they say there is no chance of life on certain planets. This just proves that life will find a way.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Benji

    Don't discount discoveries such as these. Finding 'new' things can be a relatively rare event and can lead to other interesting and unrelated discoveries. Anyway, they were not looking for life – they were trying to understand what an ice shelf looks like.

    Its hard enough keeping creationists out of science, now we are going to have to fend off teabaggers. Very depressing...

    March 16, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Chang

    So many ignorant, short-sighted people commenting here. For everyone who says "Duhhh, Science bad. Spend money on food and AIDS research instead, help all the hungry and poor people with that money!" I have some things I'd like to mention:

    (1) You don't have the right to say that until you sell your TV, cancel your Cable bill, your cell phone bill, stop going to the movies, etc, because you should be donating that money to the hungry, the poor, and AIDS researchers.

    (2) If you say "Science" must stop spending money to divert those funds elsewhere (like feeding Africa) then why stop there? NASA's budget alone won't end world hunger. Let's stop maintaining our roads, bridges, and the rest of our infrastructure, because feeding all the hungry is more important, right? Let's lay off all the police and fire departments, because although some crimes will be committed and people will die in fires, at least we're spending as much as possible feeding the hungry.

    (3) As others have pointed out, supporting our brightest minds (often scientists) and providing funding to research their ideas are what lead to scientific and technological breakthroughs and advancement, which is what made the US what it is today, and which is what we will need to remain strong in the future. If we stop pursuing scientific advancement, in the near future we will all be destitute and poor, and certainly in no position to help anyone else.

    You people need to think long-term. Money that is spent on research & science will continue to yield more profit in the future, which will allow us to continue to spend SOME of our money on social pursuits.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Gary, Sacramento

    NASA's work here is most likely related to their large scale investigations into human-caused global warming.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  14. MC

    I echo Lyla's question (#123):
    why is there only one shrimp? what else is down there praying on the shrimp?
    I doubt the shrimp is at the top of the food chain down there. Although I guess humans assumed that spot when NASA arrived.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  15. HurricaneKC

    For those who are wondering why NASA was even drilling holes in the ice shelf anyway, here's my theory:

    NASA knows it is loosing favor with the American public, who don't feel that the government should be wasting it's money on a program that hasn't had any significant discoveries in years, so it orchistrated a plan. They created a man made meteor that contained fossils of giant insects that "prove" extraterrestrial life and planned to place it under the ice. Then, when they were drilling thru to see what the bottom of the ice shelf looked like, they'd "accidentally" find this ET rock and would excite people again about the space program and save NASA.

    But this is just my theory... Or maybe I read it in a book somewhere 😉

    March 16, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
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