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. Joe

    I'm not sure about everyone else's areas of residence, but in MN, we go ice fishing for probably 4 months out of the year where we drill holes in the ice and low and behold, catch fish through them. Things live below ice. Weird.

    March 16, 2010 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
  2. golfgirl

    another waste of money – really nasa give up already – why don't we use the funds given to nasa to help OUR COUNTRY's PEOPLE .... the educational system is so poor here – and how about helping the victims of Katrina still living in tents .... and help the seniors and put money back into social security and cancer research I could go on and on .... why do we care that there is ONE shrimp swimming ALONE in the antarctic ...if there were two shrimp then I could see why we might be excited about this – because then there could be more ... but nasa has probably frightened it away with their camera and we will never see the shrimp again....because there are so many holes in the ice now thanks to nasa – the ice will melt even faster and so it goes....

    March 16, 2010 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Larry

    To those that said this is a waste: accumulation of real knowledge is not a waste, in fact never a waste. To think otherwiseshows a tragic ignorance of science and how we progress.

    March 16, 2010 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Kenny B.

    To all of those who are asking why is NASA drilling under the ice. NASA is currently looking into whether or not life could be sustained under the thick layer of ice that surrounds Europa (one of Jupiter's moons) and they could be doing all sorts of tests to see what it could be like under the ice on Europa. For those who are whining about why NASA is wasting money on drilling in the ice... how do you know that it's a waste. How do you know that they won't find some sort of extraordinary new bacteria or life form that could solve some of the problems that this planet faces. If we are not willing to explore then how will we discover anything new?

    March 16, 2010 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Brett

    I am amazed at the lack of understanding by most people who have read this article. The remarks of "I thought NASA was about space" shows just how ignoriant we are as a society so no matter how much money we throw at solving any society problems we can't solve them because of the people issue. Look at Katrina as an example, many blame the Bush administration, but guess what Obama's been in office for over a year and New Orleans is still messed up. NASA is about exploration both in space and in the deep oceans – mainly discovering how live could survive in where where "normally" it could not. It is sad that our society in all the great advances and at times the great achievements that we can do are so ignorant and self absorbed.

    March 16, 2010 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Andrew

    For those that complain about the tax money, the purpose of research, etc, please go and join some tribe in the Amazon. You complain when you don't understand, but live in a world that has been provided to you thanks to all advances in research. So if you want to live in such world, accept the cost. And for your information those researchers at NASA could be making double the money working for a private company. Private companies that go bankrupt because of their irresponsible management and greed, but later are saved with tax money, while NASA (and MANY other research centers) lose a lot of funding.

    March 16, 2010 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. passerby

    So... I see a ton of comments on here questioning why we are researching this when we have starving people. Or why we are more concerned with this than the "surface" of the earth... First of all, this is clearly considered the surface... wait... did they dig into the mantel? Oh that's right, they just went underneath the ice sheet... so they haven't even hit the rock... or surface... anywho, what the crud people... I understand a concern with the starving people around the world... but is that any reason to stop any type of research? Let's turn this a bit... so you went out and bought a computer and have spent time typing comments on here... oh me oh my, you could have spent that money on a starving child... Seriously, I know our taxes do get abused; however, to argue against research, or exploration, be it space or Earth, is just a sign of ignorance.

    March 16, 2010 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jan

    When I heard NASA I immediately jumped to the conclusion that they had a camera in space that could see below the ice surface that was so powerful it spotted a swimming shrimp. The thought of that powerful of a camera freaked me out more than the shrimp. Then I read that they dropped the camera down there and I wondered why since I thought NASA was all about space exploration. I'm like some of the others on here wanting to know the temperature of the water and where's the picture of the shrimp? Is it that orange spot that appears to be frozen? I'm confused.

    March 16, 2010 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Emi

    I have a feeling that most people who have made comments about this article didi not take their time to read its last paragraph: "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."

    March 16, 2010 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Phil Smith

    The level of ignorance displayed here is staggering. Methinks the shrimp has a bit more mental power than you poor folk.

    Do a little research. Flex that noodle. Imagine. Think.

    And if you want to talk about waste, let's not focus on the few million dedicated to this kind of research and instead focus on the hundreds of billions of taxpayer money lost to fraud, waste and abuse through Medicare, Medicaid, DoD, and a bunch of other programs and departments.

    NASA's budget is $18 billion, and includes Earth science. DoD's budget is $533 billion, and a bunch of that is swallowed up in weapon systems we do not need and two pointless wars.

    March 16, 2010 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Gabriel

    They never wasted any money my friend. They say that photo was taken at 600 ft in depth. So what. It if was taken at 36,000 feet in depth it would of been a story. They arent' going to say that to the real public.Because now why would they be drillingthat deep to begin with. Their geothermal drilling Antartica guys causing poor countries to go broker....lol PRove it though

    March 16, 2010 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jeff

    it only mean one thing..this is a living planet..only here that life exists, and nowhere else.

    March 16, 2010 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  13. SB

    Reality check: NASA's budget amounts to about one half of one percent of the total federal budget. AIG's bailout could have funded NASA for four years. TARP could have funded NASA for 30 years. The LCROSS mission to the Moon cost less than a single F22 fighter jet. etc., etc.

    It's easy to let your imagination run wild and believe that NASA must represent a major chunk of federal funding. The actual numbers, however, tell a very different story.

    Don't take my word for it. This is public information, so take five minutes and look it up yourself. If you're searching for a mythical hole into which tax dollars are thrown in great numbers, NASA isn't it. In fact, what NASA accomplishes with a feeble amount of funding is pretty darn amazing.

    March 16, 2010 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  14. larry

    A good example of how studying things that at first glance might seem silly can be found in the bacterial world. Japanese scientists wanted to know why a marine bacterium glows. Who cares right? What diff will that make? Well, this lead to the discovery of quorum sensing in bacteria, the same phenomena that allows other bacteria to escape antibiotic treatment and grow on human heart valves. Seems kinda useful to me. Seems the likes of AlwyzAtChrch would rather let people suffer than try to do anything about it. Did jesus teach you that?

    March 16, 2010 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Sparty

    It's completely ridiculous that we humans are soo... self-centered. Just because we have a certain external form and thrive well under certain climatic conditions, does not necessarily mean that all forms of life - alien or otherwise - will have similar external and/or climatic characteristics. NASA of all organizations needs to know that and dedicate its resources accordingly.

    March 16, 2010 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
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