Scientists Find Unexpected Trove of Life Forms Beneath Antarctic Ice Shelf

A team of researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany has discovered a whopping 77 seafloor-dwelling species beneath an Antarctica ice shelf -- a hint that this mysterious realm may be far more biologically rich than scientists realized. From a report: Little is known about the environment beneath Antarctica's floating ice shelves, the seaward extensions of the continent's glaciers that span 1.6 million square kilometers. It's a harsh, cold environment shrouded in continuous darkness, and previous studies of life beneath the ice have only documented a few dozen hardy life forms. The new research, published earlier this month in Current Biology, identified more species in a single spot than had previously been documented across all the ice shelves of the frozen continent. After drilling two holes through the Weddell Sea's Ekstrom Ice Shelf, the researchers collected seabed specimens in 2018. They found the biodiversity on this patch of seafloor to be "richer than many open water samples found on the continental shelf where there is light and food sources," according to a press release from the British Antarctic Survey. Four of the species studied experienced yearly growth rates "comparable with similar animals" in open water habitats.

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