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. Tom

    Why would NASA be digging in ice? Probably because they are trying to recreate similar conditions as the polar caps on Mars, or moons around the solar system, which is important for further space exploration. If life is possible on Mars, or Europa or wherever, humans can build colonies way in the future.

    This little shrimpy was just caught up in the middle of it all. 🙂

    March 16, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Toby

    It's funny that the shrimp has someone already thinking about eating it. What if NASA found life on another planet? I guess everything can be food for someone or something.

    March 16, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. adamantia claus

    I dont know what's funnier, WHAT the writer said about putting the shrimp on the barbie so to speak in a truly casual way or the EXTREMELY ARCH and self righteous responses to what he said that followed, it was the LENGTH and PASSION with which so many responded that cracked me up while for the most part missing the throwaway nature of the statement. Priceless. Honestly. Classic America. We DO get het up about the most odd things. I love my country and the people in it – I really do.

    March 16, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Emily

    Glenn, I'm astounded by the fact that you can sound so superiour and be so condescending to someone based on their opinion, when you dont even know the difference between 'you're' and 'your'. Also to the person who said the "author couldn't leave out such important information as why the were drilling 600ft under the ice" maybe you should read the article more carefully. The author clearly states they were taking the first picture if the underside of a glacier.

    March 16, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Danny

    Lets hope that the first Alien Species that "discovers" us doesn't have the same idea.... "Hmmmmm, Humans, lets cook them" !

    March 16, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Angel

    Way to goooo! shrimpyyyyy

    March 16, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Nick

    They call it a shrimp because its the only way they know how to tell yokels what they found. If you go up to someone and tell them you found a Lyssianasid amphipod they aren't going to know what you told them.

    March 16, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Marc

    Upon closer examination, I do believe that NASA has officially Found NEMO!!

    March 16, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jennifer Wilson

    I know we all want to bash NASA for spending money on digging through ice but I am sure there was a much more important reason and its what we call exploration. Thats how America was discovered by exploring

    March 16, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Eric

    For those wondering why NASA would be drilling, is because they are probably field testing equipment so they can one day hope to use it for and on a moon/planet covered in ice.

    March 16, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  11. sam

    If they were drilling with the presumption that nothing's there, then why drill at all? Why waste the money? I'm just a thinker.

    March 16, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bob

    Why does everyone complain about what NASA spends money on? Our government SHOULD fund all types of research. Why does everyone automatically assume this money would be better spent fighting poverty, etc? And why ... WHY does EVERY article posted on the internet break down into arguments about politics and the environment?

    NASA discovered a new organism while studying an ice shelf. PERIOD.

    March 16, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Fingerman

    The comment about eating it was in jest. Get over it. For those of you who think Space is only outer space are a little narrow minded. And for those of you who think it is a waste, please remember that battery technology that makes the cardiac pacemaker was a result of space exploration research. The laptop your child uses in school, or the computer you use at work only fit your desk or your kid's napsack because of the research that results from space exploration.

    So everyone, take a breath and realize that our level of knowlege just got opened up about...oh, say three inches. And we have so much more to learn. Thanks NASA.

    March 16, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mr. Obvious

    What makes this place a harsh environment? sure if you're on the surface. but the water can only get so cold and remain water, 600 feet? seals dive deeper than that. the shock value of this discovery is like being surprised there's bass under the dock you're fishing on. of course somthing's there. Underwater doesn't DO winter so why would a sea creature like this who's just as likely to be found off New Zealand or my diinner plate be headline news.
    A hunting spear or a skull under neath Antartica, THAT WOULD BE NEWSworthy.
    back to my shrimp cocktail....

    March 16, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  15. John

    It seems like some of the comment posters here did not read the whole article or just don't understand what they read. Did you miss the part at the end about frozen moons in outer space or what? Think about it.

    Antarctica would be the closest thing to a hands on simulation of a frozen moon or frozen planet. Also, the fact that there are shimp swimming around 600ft below the ice would suggest the possibility of life existing on some back water frozen moon or planet somewhere in the universe.

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