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. Peter

    The under side of the ice shelf sounds like a good place to setup a web cam. Maybe there are other unknown "creatures" that could be discovered.

    March 16, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  2. heather

    i, for one, think this is pretty incredible.

    March 16, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Xerxes2010

    Frozen things do indeed move, take the ice in my liquor, ice is frozen yet floats around or ice cycles being thrown, frozen yet flies. we all no there are more important things under the ice than healthcare!!!!!!!

    March 16, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. afihavok

    Why dont people read the article before they start commenting? Yes, the creature is alive....they said it was 'swimming'. And they drilled down under the ice to photograph the under side of the ice shelf, which apparently had never been done before.

    March 16, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Gump

    The author neglected to mention what kind of shrimp it was: Scampi, Battered, Cajun style?

    March 16, 2010 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  6. drow

    "fix what's wrong first" is a recipie for doing nothing worthwhile at all. the US already does a hell of a lot to help the rest of the world, but they're going to have to do the rest themselves.

    March 16, 2010 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Matt

    :: ATTENTION – THE ANSWERS TO YOUR QUESTIONS :: Most of these comments are useless. If you correctly read the article it tells you "the shrimp was swimming." Which answers your questions of whether it was alive, frozen, false positive contamination. The other question of "why was NASA exploring the ocean" was also answered. "NASA took the first ever pictures of the antarctic ice shelf." Maybe you dumb religious, animal rights, activists would know why NASA explores in oceanic environments if you did a little research instead of jumping to the gun to complain every chance you can. NASA does base trials in water environments here on Earth because it best resembles the effect in space. So... NASA is more than qualified to do marine biology as they are in astronomy. In fact marine biologists usually get their technology for stronger materials for the pressures of deep sea research from NASA, and NASA just developed the "perfect fit body suit" to improve swimming for athletic swimming and deep sea diving. Another question everyone is asking is, why wouldn't you expect life in all place on earth. Well, scientists were under the impression that life can only exist with the presence of water and a source of energy, such as sun light. They have found life forms in deep parts of the ocean where sunlight does not penetrate but those life forms were getting their energy from thermal vents. Light from the sun does not penetrate under the antarctic shelf and 600 feet is not deep enough to live off energy from thermal vents. Surprised, that they exist in that condition yes! Baffled, no! They just have to find the energy source. As to everyone complaining about the costs. NASA has a yearly budget as does every other program, AIDS or what have you. This research is not costing no more than what NASA was already going to spend. The reason why drilling into the Antarctic Ice Shelf usually cost a lot of money is because geologists are usually using a special drill that collects samples of ice as they drill. NASA does not need to do this method to get a camera below the surface. They were probably testing a new technology that they are developing to explore Europa which has a thermal tip that simply melts through the ice. Another complaint was, the quality of the picture. Hello, there is no sun light for exposure. They are using light from the camera which scatters in water. Not only that, but since the camera is mounted onto a robot, the robot is probably generating a lot of foam and bubbles which will distort the picture.... Easy questions answered!!

    March 16, 2010 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Rich

    It's alive..ALIVE! Fetch me some bread crumbs and frying oil Igor.

    March 16, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  9. greatscience

    I feel the need to chime in...first, for those who feel NASA is a waste of tax payer $$. NASA has been at the forefront of space exploration, as well as Earth science, for over 50 years. Some of the greatest discoveries have been a direct result of the work by NASA...cutting edge propulsion systems used in aircraft around the world, major medical discoveries and advances, all kinds of major scientific discoveries, and innumerable everyday items that we all take for granted: Kevlar, HEPA filters, smoke detectors, WB 40 (yes WB 40), water filters, firefighter breathing equipment, freeze dried foods, microwave, and all kinds of other things are the results of NASA research. So, before folks bash NASA, take a look around you and thank them for many of the things you enjoy, keep you alive and healthy, and educate us about the Earth and the Universe.

    March 16, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  10. beckyb

    Hi all, I think teh people who think this is useless are missing the point. if we find life that can exist where human life cannot, and then we learn how they can, then maybe once us humans have used up all the resources on this planet we will be able to colonize and sutain life on another planet or another environment. Keep your minds on global warming, our food supply depleting and over-population. These are very important reasons to do this research.

    March 16, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
  11. giles clarke

    Is it a relation of Tiger woods?

    March 16, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bubba

    Wow. The comments were more entertaining than the article. I do hope they find more in that hole so people can keep complaining, conjecturing and otherwise entertaining each other...

    March 16, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  13. ro fuso

    ok, well when you consider that ther are about 5280 feet in a mile....this is only about an eigth of a mile deep.....that's about from my house to mailbox across the road.

    March 16, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  14. CM

    OMG there are some really stupid people out there. It is dismaying to see these comments and realize that many of the people taking the time to comment either didn't read the entire article, or didn't understand what they read before posting some comment blasting NASA, science, the government, or anyone able to read and comprehend a half page news article.

    Sometimes science does have things wrong, but the great thing about science is that it is open to change and new possibilities. Science works toward an answer based on evidence and some assumptions, rather than starting with the answer and using assumptions to support it.Sometimes new evidence will prove a scientific assumption wrong and the answer is reevaluated. It is called progress, and we all owe the comfort of our modern daily lives to this kind of progress.

    March 16, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Michael

    " this is what NASA spends money on?"
    "That money could have been used to help the Americans who need it, not on some stupid project like that so NASA can have a job-Idiots."
    "I wonder how much it cost to find out there was a shrimp 600 feet below the ice shelf?"
    "Nice, but with all the budget problems, why is NASA bothering with this?
    And while NASA is exploring the ocean, what is NOAA doing?"
    "Are you kidding me? We are CLOSING PUBLIC SCOOLS accross the nation but our government pays for this Exploration in wasted time?"
    "NASA gets billions to spend every year and the best photo available is a fuzzy image that looks like a ketchup stain."
    "who cares? another worthless venture brought to you by nasa and the american tax payers..."

    Better than spending over $18 Billion per month on a stupid war that's done nothing but kill over 5,000 U.S. service persons and innocent civilians, ticked off the rest of the world and continues to drain our resources in "rebuilding" a country full of people who HATE us. Or the billions of dollars spent every year on services for illegal immigrants. Or the billions spent on bailing out poorly-run banks that continue to give their CEOs huge bonuses and yet they refuse to grant loans to folks. Or the millions spent on providing government workers the very best in health care, perks, bonuses, protection and huge raises every so often while the rest of us scratch and claw for mediocre benefits. NASA's budget is LESS THAN 1% of the entire U.S. budget.

    "I must point out how hilarious it is that an agency devoted to space exploration apparently made the assumption that just because a place lacked light and was inhospitable to human life, there would be no life."
    "NASA is looking under ice shelves... Are they not suppose to be looking in space for the big invasion? "

    NASA BELIEVES in the possibility of life in those inhospitable locations, which is WHY they did undertook this experiment, which supports their theories and plans regarding Europa and Callisto, moons orbiting Jupiter that have liquid under a thick covering of ice. Yes, they're surprised at finding life under the inhospitable antarctic because it's tantamount to finding life existing in molten lava (which would also be an amazing find).

    This is a science agency that hires U.S. citizens and legal residents to work on projects that DO contribute to the understanding of the world we live in, technological advancement of our society and DOES benefit everyday living (many of the things folks take for granted actually came from the space program). This is very difficult work and it does take a lot of care, planning and high tech. Some of the most amazing discoveries began as fuzzy pictures or bits and pieces of something scientists stumbled upon.

    It's disturbing to see so many comments from short-sighted, uneducated people who are SO wrapped up with instant gratification, consumerism, fake TV drama, political correctiveness, organized religion and Conservative brainwashing. These people are inherently short-sighted and incapable of imagination, daring and exploration. Their only sense of adventure is killing some living being (be it animal or human) for sport or out of anger, watching pro wrestling and going to truck smashing rallies. They cry about spending money on scientific endeavors yet they'll continue to write a blank check for all the wasteful plastic JUNK and inefficient utilities they buy that pollute this planet as well as all things that come about because of sensationalized fear and warmongering.

    March 16, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
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