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. Nighthaawk

    One final thought.. The government WILL spend money.. I'd rather see it spent sharing knowledge to get us all out of our little "clubs" of self – interest and get us all working together. If you ever see the Earth form space, you will notice right off the bat, there are no borders, no big lines separating our states and countries...it's all ONE PLANET!
    Stop the petty bickering and let's get on with helping each other!

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

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think the purpose of this study was to put a new item on Red Lobster's menu – I believe the photograph of the ketchup stain was a bonus to having the first photograph of the underside of the ice shelf – many countries spend lots of $ doing research on the ice in Anarctica for very good reasons

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

    I'm pretty sure that when he said "It was a shrimp you'd enjoy having on your plate" he was probably trying to explain that it was similar (in size, shape, color, etc.) to the most common type of shrimp people see, the one on their plate and it wasn't some crazy ice shrimp from the deep with horns and wings. Does anyone here really think they are planning on eating this thing? Some of you sound awfully angry...

    March 16, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  4. dozapolis

    Wow... Im amazed by how few people actually know what NASA's responsibilities are.

    1. NASA = National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    2. Their purpose is space exploratin, scientific discovery and aeronautic research

    Drilling down below the ice looking for life is paramount to the goals of NASA. If life can exist down there, is it worth money to explore life on other planets? Could there be useful research methodolgies developed from such exploration? How the hell does that shrimp live down there, maybe a new chemical we can use to explore space?

    March 16, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Scott

    You don't suppose NASA was looking at the ice with regards to climate change? That has been part of their job for a long time. They weren't looking for life–it was a chance discovery.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. james

    So, we found a caveman's stash of frozen shrimp....and this affects space travel how?? OH, we're gonna make spacesuits that look like shrimp, gotcha.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Anita

    There it was just swimming along minding it's own business and it get plucked out of it's home and ends up on top of the ice with God knows how many idiots with glasses and pocket protectors (under thier parkas) staring down at it with their mouths open watching WHILE IT DIES !!!
    What a life altering discovery. Now the hundreds of thousands of starving people or those dying from horrible diseases can rest easy!
    Science has prevailed.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  8. 173

    We assume that it must eat something to survive, but i want to know what might be eating it, oh wait we already know that. US!

    March 16, 2010 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. JR

    Yeah, what were those Wright brothers thinking strapping a car engine to some canvas and wood threaded together with bicycle chains?? They should have been focusing on changing bike tires!

    While I'm sure they didn't benefit from a government grant, the point is, you never know what technologies and discoveries pan out until afterwards. Don't be so short-sighted. Maybe you should go back to walking and riding horses and abandon all those technologies that people wasted tax dollars on...might loose that gut you gained on that couch...

    March 16, 2010 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  10. kay

    your descendants may appreciate this research when earth moves past global warming and moves into another ice age.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Hunter Lenihan

    Its not a shrimp at all but another marine invertebrate, an amphipod, commonly found in the same region, and elsewhere in dark, deep, and cold areas of the world's oceans. This is a silly story.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  12. professor jay

    so this is where our tax money is going? to pay a bunch of grown kids to play in the ice where we will never benefit from such discoveries except the minuscule and useless knowledge that tiny shrimp live somewhere very cold and dark. how about fixing america's crumbling infrastructure, and putting that money into our schools so are children can have an updated education that's not lagging behind by about a decade or more....i know america is the best the world has ever seen in terms of democracy and freedom but seriously?...we NEED to priorize....if someone wants to explore the ice, they should finds their own funds and not STEAL from YOU and ME...who can disagree with that?

    March 16, 2010 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  13. John

    It must have swum under the ice from outside as it had color instead of white or near transparency for those that live far down. So may be it was just checking out the neighborhood. Now if NASA finds life under the ice of a far distant moon, great. Still haven't figured out why they would want to see the underside of an ice shelf? To many questions on that one.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Michele

    I enjoy reading the comments – it always amazes me at how much the average reader doesn't realize that goes on around them. NASA – while primarily involved in space exploration, is also a huge contributer to exploration of areas of our planet that no living human has seen (a lot of it is testing of their equipment for out of world exploration). I see comments about finding cures for AIDS and cancer. What most people don't understand is that under the ocean, under the ice of the poles, in the jungles of asia and south america, that's where many cures and treatments will be found. So finding a new species of shrimp, great, wonder what else is down there to discover that may be of some help to the human populous without destroying the only environment we have. Wait – humans are the only important part of our worlds infrastructure right?!?

    March 16, 2010 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Really?

    I am all for pure research for research sake. But couldn't we have spent the millions this project cost on our education system which is going to hell in a handbasket? Who is going to be doing the reserach of the future? Ill prepared, non critical thinking if it's not in the book and I can't follow the recipe problem solvers....

    March 16, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
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