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. TimInNC

    For those people who are so upset we spent the money on this resesarch let me remind you that pure research almost never has a goal in mind. It is where all the truely big breakthroughs come from. You never know what you will find when you look under a rock, or an ice shelf. Perhaps studying this shrimp will help us discover a chemical that will help treat hypothermia. Maybe not. If we don't loook we'll never know. the ability to wonder adn explore is what makes Mankind what it is.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Tom

    I'm astonished a scientist would "assume" that any part of the ocean had no life. Where did this brainiac get his degree? And for god's sake, what has he been doing since then? Nothing there? That seriously blows my mind.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bill

    Are they sure the shrimp didn't come down with the camera?

    March 16, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  4. just me

    Lets see,expected no life. So decided to to spend millions to bore a hole for nothing and was surprised that it was not a total waste of money!!!!!

    March 16, 2010 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Glenn

    To gary and Frank:
    You're near-sighted vision amazes me. Scientific studies like this help develop theories of how and where life can exist. NASA's involvement is clear; this helps develop future exploration of distant worlds, such as Europa and Encedalus, moons of Jupiter and Saturn (respectively) which both have evidence of sub-surface oceans where life could exist.

    One thing is true, Frank: the Antarctic is indeed a pretty important place.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Astonished

    Wow... people questioning scientific exploration... and some wonder why society has been going downhill.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Marco

    I wonder when they will find intelligent life on this planet?

    March 16, 2010 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Todd A

    Someone asked if it was alive or dead?

    Did you NOT read the part of the article where it was stated "a swimming shrimp like creature"?

    Dead creatures can't be out for a swim now could they?

    March 16, 2010 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Todd

    So this camera/contraption just bored down through 600 feet of ice and is in the water below, looking up. They were just saying it looks pretty much like any other shrimp you might have seen at the market or on your plate. I applaud them for exploring this extreme environment - seems like no matter where you look and think there's nothing, you find something.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Moose

    Sometimes the most beneficial discoveries were not intended, or were not even being sought for. Alexander Fleming was looking for a cure for gram-negative bacteria and instead found penicillin. Pretty good for a farm boy. Good thing he didn't stay at the farm.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Balzac

    I, for one, welcome our new shrimp overlords.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Tom

    Why is finding life at a depth of 600 feet such a surprise to NASA? It really makes no difference that the water was covered by ice. These guys don't get out much, do they.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  13. ken

    Probably already a bill in Congress to tax it.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Kim

    I agree with Astonished. Scientific exploration is often misunderstood as wasteful and extravagant. One discovery can change our world for the better. If you don't go in, you can't find out.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  15. dk

    Scientific close-mindedness? I'll say! This is clearly the work of God and there are absolutely no other reasonable possibilities and those who don't believe this will surely eventually come around or burn for eternity....period.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
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