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. TJ

    NASA's annual budget is less than one percent of the federal budget (search for it). The three main areas NASA focuses on are represented in this statement: "NASA's mission is to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research."

    March 16, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Luis Villalvazo

    i've read so many comments here that just seem so ignorant. First of all we were not drilling, As as far as I know only the Russinas are drilling in Antartica and the other nation that is thiking of doing that same thing is the UK. The animal that they seem to have found is not new but has been found in other inhospitable places. It is just a badly written article.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Gedmage

    How far from the edge of the iceshelf?
    Couldn't the darn thing have justed drifted over?
    I don't know how long a tiny shrimp could survive, but I am darn sure that if it drifted over, maybe some food did as well?
    Is this obvious or am I mssing something? Was this 1000 miles from the edge of the shelf?
    If so, I don't think it's melting as fast as they say!

    March 16, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  4. alex

    Doesn't NASA stand for National Aeronautics and Space Administration? key words: AERONAUTICS & SPACE...why are they digging below antarctica?

    March 16, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  5. PD

    Nasa spends money on this and the census B spends millions on advertising to send in your Census???? We got a letter (and so did you) just to tell us that the Census B is sending the Census!?!?! wonder what the cost of sending every American a letter telling them they are going to get a letter was?

    March 16, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Rhett

    I assume NASA is drilling through the Antarctic ice shelf to better understand how to make a probe/lander that can drill through the thick ice of Europa and other icy worlds to try and find life or gold, or golden life, or a working nuclear fusion reactor (that'd be too awesome). I bet they are pretty excited about finding anything that far under the Antarctic ice, although I don't know exactly why they were doubting life would be there. This is Earth after all.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  7. rose

    They may have been looking for downed space ships who knows

    March 16, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Bemused

    Maybe we should be spending billions studying (oceams) and understanding this planet, berfore we further explore the Moon or Mars. Couldn't the deep sea exploration result in the kind of technology transfer that the space program has brought us?

    March 16, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. notastepfordwife

    Thanks I needed a laugh.

    March 16, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ACE

    People need to stop being so selfish...All they can do is complain about the here and now. Since there is no immediate gratification from this discovery they all cry like babies about where that money is being spent. Let the scientists do their research and stop all of your blubbering.

    March 16, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Dain Rudolph

    This is the best news i have heard all day

    March 16, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Take5 Guy

    Was this a gigantic discovery or was it just a shrimp?

    March 16, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Ray


    March 16, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  14. pduke

    read it, it says thats when we saw it swimming.

    March 16, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Dave

    Maybe if they didn't drill so many holes in the ice it would slow down the melting of the ice caps?

    March 16, 2010 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
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