Scientists accidentally found life under 3,000 feet of ice in Antarctica. ‘Never in a million years’ would they have expected that, the researcher said.

  • Scientists stumbled upon life under 3,000 feet of ice in Antarctica.
  • They found two types of unidentified animals where they had thought that nothing could live.
  • Their next step is to find a way to get close enough to identify the creatures.
  • Visit the Insider business section for more stories.

Scientists have found life below 3,000 feet under ice in Antarctica and challenged their assumption that nothing could live under such conditions.

The previous theory was that life could not exist in such an extremity: no food, freezing temperatures, and complete darkness.

The creatures were found attached to a boulder in the cold sea under the ice shelf Filchner-Ronne. Experts from the British Antarctic Survey drilled through 2,860 feet of ice and then another 1,549 feet of water to make the discovery.

“The area under these ice shelves is probably one of the least known habitats on earth,” said Dr. Huw Griffith, one of the researchers who made the discovery, in a Twitter video.

“We did not think that this kind of animal, like mushrooms, would be found there.”

The Filchner-Ronne ice shelf is a massive floating ice sheet that extends from the Antarctic continent.

It spans more than 579,000 square miles, but only the corresponding surface of a tennis court has been explored.

Huge icebergs occasionally break off from these ice shelves and slide away. In December 2020, one of these icebergs threatened to crash into a breeding ground for seal lions and penguins.

Filchner Ronne Ice Shelf, Antartica

An annotated satellite image of the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf is the second largest ice shelf in Antarctica.

Google Maps / Insider


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The giant ice sheets are the second largest ice sheet in Antarctica


British Antarctic Survey / Twitter



The researchers did not start looking for life.

They drilled through the ice sheet to collect samples from the seabed. Instead, their camera hit a boulder. As they reviewed the camera footage, it revealed this discovery.

“Never in a million years would we have thought of looking for this kind of life because we did not think it would be there,” Griffiths told The Guardian.

The video reveals two types of unidentified animals, shown here in a video from the British Antarctic Survey. The animals in red appear to have long stalks, while another type of animal, highlighted in white, looks more like a round mushroom-like animal.

annotated video, new discovery animals, Antarctica

An annotated still image of the footage capturing animals under the ice of Antarctica.


British Antarctic Survey / Twitter



Other studies had looked at life under ice sheets. A few mobile animals, such as fish, worms, jellyfish or krill, could be found in this habitat.

But it was thought that the deeper and farthest away from a light source, the habitat stretched, the less likely it would be that life could be found.

Read more: Disney closes animation studio behind ‘Ice Age’ movie. Some employees say they are shocked by the lack of communication and feel betrayed that the final film will not be released.

This is the first time that animals bound to a surface have been found. The researcher says that these animals are located about 160 miles from the open sea.

“Our discovery raises so many more questions than it answers, such as how did they get there? What do they eat? How long have they been there?” Griffith said in a press release.

The researchers said their next step is to understand if these are new species.

“To answer our questions, we need to find a way to get close with these animals and their environment … 260 km [160 miles] away from the ships where our labs are, ”Griffith said.

Life in research stations in Antarctica is not easy, as Insiders Monica Humpfries reported

They are so remote that the first case of COVID-19 on the continent was first reported in December 2020.

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