FunNature & AnimalScientists find fragments of life under Antarctica

Scientists find fragments of life under Antarctica

Although they occupy about 1.6 million square kilometers, icebergs are among the most mysterious environments on Earth, so if signs of life have ever been observed in these cold and dark habitats, rare once it has been possible to collect traces of life in these parts of the world.

Hence the importance of a recent study published a few weeks ago in the specialized journal Current Biology , according to which scientists have discovered fragments of different new species in the sea ice of Antarctica .

An interesting investigation was carried out by a team of German researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, when, in 2018, they decided to drill two holes with hot water about 200 meters deep in the sea ice of the Antarctica, specifically under the Ekström ice sheet.

It was there that they found fragments of life from more than 75 species on the seabed . While it is true that some of the species had already been discovered in Antarctica, other fragments were not published or cataloged for the region.

The study authors indicated that most of the animals found generally feed on phytoplankton and microalgae . But no plant or seaweed is capable of surviving such extreme conditions, prompting scientists to wonder how species survive in this environment.

One of the assumptions they made was that there was a sufficient amount of algae transported under the ice floes , which would provide a solid food web, even under similar conditions.

Furthermore, analysis of the samples carried out under the microscope revealed that, surprisingly, the annual growth of four of the species was comparable to that of the same animals in open marine habitats , on the same Antarctic continental shelf.

The authors also noted that “carbon dating of the dead fragments of these animals goes from the present to 5,800 years.” Therefore, due to climate change and the collapse of these ice shelves, they urgently ask to study and protect these ecosystems.

In fact, they consider that, although some of these species have survived for thousands of years, the next few centuries would tend to be the most difficult, given the advance of global warming .

And they are quite clear about it: although climate changes can make many places cooler and darker, this habitat may end up becoming one of the first to disappear, as the conditions present in the ice sheet change or fade to as the planet warms up.

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