Life found in Darkness under Antarctic Shelf

Jay Kakade
Life dwelling deep into the seawaters
A Antarctic Site showing presence of life deep under sea (Barnes et. al, Curr Bio, 2021)

Deep under the Antarctica's Ekström Ice Shelf is nothing but a place where darkness rules. But shockingly this darkness has been dwelling abundant life here from thousands of years.

A Marine Biologist David Barnes says, The dwelling of lifeforms in such extreme conditions is very rare and full of surprises. This gives us idea how Antarctic life is very unusual and special. It is amazing to see types of animal forms, Most of them feeds on Algae. Yet no animals and plants can live in such extreme environment, How did these species managed to survive here?

Researchers used hot water to drill into two boreholes. One of the hole went down to 192 meters of ice and another hole went down to 190 meters of ice. Researchers found deep dark and cold place with scarcity of food but availability of life. They found 77 different species of 49 different genera.

Fragments of Bryozoa on the Seabed
Fragments of Bryozoa found on Seabed (David Barnes)

Team found almost all animals are suspension feeders i.e. They grabs a position quietly and catches prey with tentacles as soon as prey pass by. This shows sunlight-dependent food sources like algae must be getting under these ice shelf of Antarctica. 

It is surprising to see life in place which saw permanent darkness for thousands of years. It was believed such places may be lacking in rich flora and fauna. Yet we have not extended the research area so these biodiversity could extend much more than we saw.

Fragments of some species found here show similar growth increments as that of Tree's Rings. This increments are similar to other samples from Antarctica. Researchers found missing of filter feeders here. Team carbon dated many dead fragments to find out their age.

Researchers were surprised to see life since 5,00 years from now. Despite the darkness and scarce-food sources life flourished here for 5,800 years. More accurate data can be claimed with deeper research on samples and specimens founded here.

But with discovery of the life here one question surges. Despite 190 meters of glaciers and no sunlight, How did lifeforms developed here? Though the survival of these from 5,800 years scientists are worried about their sustainability.

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