Scientists were surprised after finding 'weird animals' almost a mile under the Antarctic Ice Shelf

 


There was not meant to be a perplexing group of alien-like beings.

 

Scientists inadvertently found a perplexing set of bizarre creatures about a mile beneath the frozen surface of Antarctica in a remote region 160 miles from sunlight, puzzling the researchers who thought the place was a wasteland totally devoid of existence.

After melting 20 tons of snow, scientists from the British Antarctic Survey drilled through 3,000 ft. of ice to suck up seafloor sediment before lowering a camera into the frigid ocean below. They soon discovered, however, that their tunnel at the bottom of the ocean had been dug right over a rock, making it difficult to collect any sediment.

Nevertheless, to the horror of the researchers, their camera was able to discover an ecosystem of life that left them baffled with what Wired described as "strange creatures," two kinds of filter feeding sea sponges that had never been encountered, living in the water at 28.04 ° F (-2.2 ° C) where researchers assumed that no life was feasible.

The mysterious animals living in the pitch black waters live over 200 miles from any known source of food, but despite the treacherous conditions of the Antarctic sea floor, the creatures still seem to be prospering.

The discovery of the mysterious sea sponges reveals just how little we still know about one of the world's only unexplored regions and the modes of life that live there, where gigantic ice shelves that sometimes exceed the size of entire nations have kept researchers from exploring what lies below.

In the journal Frontiers in Marine Science, the team's report laying out the jaw-dropping finding was released Monday.

Indeed, the rock was not only home to bizarre alien-like sponges on close inspection, including some shaped like cylinders, but also a bacterial film known as a microbial mat and a number of stalked species. Their source of sustenance is what left the researchers puzzled.

Usually, sessile (or stationary) living organisms depend on a steady supply of food known as "marine snow," the detritus and remains of decomposed sea creatures that fall to the depths of the ocean, often as small as particles. Anybody with an aquarium of their own can imagine what this marine snow looks like.

However, although the food source may not be obvious, scientists are guessing that aquatic currents wash from habitats in miniscule bits of organic matter that may be as far away as 390 to 930 miles.

All of this remains a matter of conjecture before this elusive underwater culture can be investigated even more closely by the next expedition. But scientists are eager to find out first and foremost what these bizarre creatures are and how they ended up in such an inhospitable region in the area.

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