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. gb

    I thought our Navy ballistic & attack subs had been below the shelf on many occasions. Couldn't they have spotted the shrimp with a periscope instead of spending millions to drill through it?

    March 16, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Joe mama

    Salt will lower the temperature at which water freezes and melts. If you have pure water,
    H2O, it freezes (and melts) at 0°C (32°F). But the more “salt” (any elements
    or compounds that is carried by the water in solution, such as Na (sodium), Ca
    (calcium), Cl (chloride), and SO4 (sulfate) in the water, the lower its
    freezing point will be. For example, seawater, which has approximately 3500 parts
    per million “salt” (including Na, Ca, Cl, SO4, Mg, K, and CO3), will freeze
    (and melt) at -2.2°C. However water with extreme salinity such as very salty
    lake waters at Death Valley, California (approximately 300,000 parts per
    million “salt”) may freeze and melt at temperatures as low as -20 – -30°C!

    March 16, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Claes

    "So this is what NASA spends money on?" ... Wonderful for some people to be able to just stupidly question every penny that goes to anything other than police or military and look like real responsible down-to-earth people. Yes, that's what they spend you money on: enjoy! They spend others money on things that they don't like... that's the way it is. Every citizen doesn't have veto on the budget and there's a reason for that.

    March 16, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  4. ugo

    Calm down guys. He didn't mean you should actually eat it. It's a figure of speech... that was a pun.

    Pretty amazing though that it couls live in such conditions

    March 16, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. AJ

    I think it's funny how many people posted the obvious "it's swimming so it must be alive" comment. All i have to say is. Shrimp cocktail, shrimp gumbo, fried shrimp, popcorn shrimp, shrimp fra diavolo, shrimp salad, shrimp on the Barbe, shrimp fricasse (sic I know), shrimp creole, shrimp cakes, butterfly shrimp, shrimp in a basket...

    March 16, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Renee Hassler

    There are some truly ignorant people commenting on this thread–those who wonder why such a discovery is important, and those who criticize scientific investigators for pursuing such information. Thank god we have citizens with higher IQ's than you morons, or we would still be living in caves.

    March 16, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Juicy

    This is the shrimp that fell off Bubba and Forest Gumps boat!! I'm glad they found it..Bubba will be happy thanks NASA! Good job!

    March 16, 2010 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  8. haf

    this is very good news i hope that there is more life

    March 16, 2010 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Amy

    For those that are asking about the discovery of the "shrimp" and what it looked like, you can view a video on NASA's website. It was actually in the video for quite a decent period of time.

    March 16, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Oracle

    Next thing you know....AVATAR to go into their world and destroy it!

    March 16, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  11. MPLSmom

    I love how an individual who is not a scientist thinks it's appropriate to judge the worth of a scientific endeavor simply because it's not obvious. Here's how it works – we don't know everything today. We have to do experiments to learn new things that can get used in other ways. Maybe learning how life exists at these temps & pressures can yield a new way to fight disease or aging, or contribute to a new technology. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that much.

    March 16, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  12. DDan

    Why doesn't anyone actually think before they speak? What do you suppose we are to test equipment for future space exploration? If we are going to explore the moons of Jupiter we must have equipment that can "Go below the ice" and ...! And for all of those people who would rather feed everyone with 'my' tax dollars, why dont you go feed the hungry, I would rather explore the worlds beyond this one, get the f away from you jackholes

    AlwyzAtChrch – why aren't you in church where your ridiculous perception of the world would be better received! Go away with your god that is the the answer to everything, I'm tired of your kind, tired of your drivel, tired of you in your entirety

    March 16, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Polaris431

    What's so special about this creature?? The water is above 0 degrees celcius and only 600 meters below. That's nothing unusual. There are all kinds of creatures living in the sea at far deeper depths and nearly boiling water.

    March 16, 2010 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jeff

    These comments make my head hurt. 99% of you people are idiots. I bet you use 10 things a day, easy, that somehow came from NASA research or spin-offs from technology developed by NASA. Space is an extreme environment; other planets are extreme environments. Without spending hundreds of billions of dollars to go there, the best we can do is try to find a similar environment here, and learn techniques that may be useful once/if we do eventually go there. Did you know we practice for Mars in the desert because the environment is very similar?

    The discovery of the shrimp was probably surprising because generally when larger inverts are found at great depth they are near hydrothermal vents and lots of heat. For a multi-cellular organism to move around it requires energy, and energy production is harder for cells as temperature is lowered. The fact that the shrimp can find enough food to produce enough energy for locomotion (and reproduction, provided we didn't stumble across the last specimen) and doesn't rely on ocean currents to carry it around is surprising.

    March 16, 2010 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  15. John

    Now all ya need is a little mayo, lettice and a roll.

    March 16, 2010 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
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