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. Source

    The antarctic ice isn't melting, actually. Multiple studies show it is actually building in the interior, which is what pushes the ice out on the ocean to form the shelf.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  2. zuljin

    bmsvds: Yes, science can be wrong. The difference is that science can admit it in the face of contradictory evidence. Or, to put it differently, science doesn't make a decision and then claim for the next several thousand years that it is inviolable absolute truth and any evidence to the contrary is the work of a sinister undermining power.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Amazed

    Really? Should we stop exploring all together? Should we not look in places we have not already seen? And should we not get excited about things we didn't expect to find?.............I guess we should have never discovered penicillin....or electricity.....or the means to fly. Some of you seem to think we need to revert back to the middle ages. Lets just stop all exploration now and end our pursuit of knowledge all together! Please!!! And if I am not completely mistaken, I believe the reference to something you would "enjoy on your plate" might have been a refernce to the size and health of the shrimp. Of course I could be wrong!!!

    March 16, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. CM

    Corey and Henry, I didn't see anywhere in this article that this is a new species, just that it was found where nobody had ever looked before.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dave

    what's even more baffling is how so called scientists continue to be surprised by life in extreme conditions. Why is this stuff still a "surprise" to any one?

    March 16, 2010 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Lorena Ortega

    Question – Why would Nasa be digging under ice shelf??? Dont think they where looking to discover Shrimp........Hmmmmmmmm, Global Warming? Earthquakes? Floods? Swimming Shimp 600 feet under Antarctic Ice? Where are they going to live once the ice melts??? What's next????????????

    March 16, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Leonardo

    I'm not sure that bacterial contamination from the surface is a problem.
    The species that thrive at surface temperatures don't operate well with the lack of heat, or sunlight.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jessica

    I support having a program like NASA because I think many things it discovers benefit the good of the world (unlike say illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for instance – if ones concern is wasteful spending).

    That said, if NASA scientists are "surprised" to find life in the antartic...that is all the reason I need to not send them to outer space looking for life. Finding life on THIS PLANET should not ever be a shock...perhaps curiousity about how such a life form is exisiting in the circumstance in which you found it...but shock?
    Space Exploration really is cool and neat...but extremely costly, and id rather we first try to figure out how to make the most out of the planet we are on...before we zip around the universe seeking new planets to move to.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Dave in Jax, FL

    Glad to see recent comments from Glenn and Astonished who have read the article and discerned the truth as to why NASA would be doing this. To those who question the value of this work, we're quickly out growing this planet. You think starvation is an issue now? Think 100 years down the road. Work that is done now to help us reach other planets will only benefit human kind. And don't come back at me with your silly "we've wrecked this planet, now let's go wreck another one" arguments. Humans are not perfect, but I would certainly hope we've learned from past mistakes and research like this will help us from making future ones. Stop living in the past and try doing sometime productive to support the future of human kind, whether it's on this earth or another world.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Italia

    Which to me challenges, the conference just held that challenged the theory of God. God is life and Life is EVERYWHERE. The concepts that Scientist can prove are disprove are limitless, because they DON'T know. So how can they say anthing factually, when in actually they only know as far as the evidence in front of their faces and there are so many elements missing even then.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Paul

    Reminds me of that classic sci-fi movie "The Thing", where they discover an alien buried in the ice. It then terrorizes the scientists until they finally kill him. So c'mon little fish! Let's see what you got!

    March 16, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Richie

    Go, Nasa, I am all for it. May be you can drill holes in some of the heads of people that left dumb comments and check for any life.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Chucklehead

    Wonder what it tastes like...

    March 16, 2010 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
  14. A. Einstein

    Shrimp = life on other planets squared

    March 16, 2010 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Dude

    "the swimmimg creature" could mean that it is a type of creature that swims (like a fish is "a swimming creature"). It doesn't necessarily mean it was alive. Not all fish are alive, but all fish are "swimming creatures".

    March 16, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
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