Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Earth NASA Science

Complex Life Found Under 600 Feet of Antarctic Ice 237

Posted by timothy
from the planted-by-von-braun-in-1967 dept.
Chroniton writes "NASA ice scientists have found a shrimp-like creature and a possible jellyfish 'frolicking' beneath 600 feet of solid Antarctic ice, where only microbes were expected to live. The odds of finding two complex lifeforms after drilling only an 8-inch-wide hole suggests there may be much more. And if such life is possible beneath Earth's oceans, why not elsewhere, like Europa?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Complex Life Found Under 600 Feet of Antarctic Ice

Comments Filter:
  • Oceans too (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @05:33PM (#31515668) Journal

    60% of the Earth is filled with oceans. In some parts they go down as much as Mount Everest goes up. That means over half of our planet is still not searched. Some of the found fishes in there are really weird as well and look like aliens.

    Imagine the land amount all those oceans would free if tried up.

    • Are you feeling OK?

    • Re:Oceans too (Score:5, Insightful)

      by John Hasler (414242) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @05:51PM (#31515926) Homepage

      > Imagine the land amount all those oceans would free if dried up.

      Imagine all the land that would become uninhabitable if the oceans dried up.

      • In addition to the trick of somehow keeping all that water vapor aloft, endless salt pan, as far as the eye can see, isn't exactly a pleasant habitat....
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by pclminion (145572)

        Imagine the impossibility of the oceans drying up.

        For the ocean to "dry up" the water would have to be removed from the planet. That requires two energy inputs: first, enough energy to boil all the water in all the oceans. Second, enough energy to raise the velocity of each molecule of water vapor to the escape velocity.

        I won't bother calculating the energy required to reach escape velocity, but the energy required just to boil the oceans into water vapor is around 3e27 J. Using another value I calculated e

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Martin Blank (154261)

          It will happen. The Earth will, barring some major perturbation of its orbit, become a dry, desolate world as the sun ages and expands. The water will not boil off, but will instead simply evaporate. As the water circulates to the upper atmosphere, it will be subject to reactions that break it apart into hydrogen and oxygen, and the hydrogen will simply fly off into space, too light to be held by the Earth's gravity. The oxygen will remain, but with little hydrogen to bind it, there will be less and les

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            The water will not boil off, but will instead simply evaporate.

            Personally, I think it will neither boil off, nor evaporate. I predict it will turn into a gas.

            • Boiling is the vaporization that takes place when the vapor pressure of the liquid is equal to the surrounding atmospheric pressure. It is different from evaporation in that boiling involves a substantial portion (usually all) of the liquid mass while evaporation involves only that portion at the surface.

          • the hydrogen will simply fly off into space, too light to be held by the Earth's gravity

            That's not how gravity works...

          • You must be great at parties.
        • by rossdee (243626)

          Imagine the sun becoming a red giant in a billion years or two. Its what astrophysicists expect anyway.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by BitZtream (692029)

        Doubtful.

        It might become uninhabitable to the existing life forms that live there, but you utterly failed to get the point of this discovery.

        Life exists in lots of places and ways that we thought weren't possible.

        Its really silly to much such an absolute statement as yours. If the oceans 'dried up' whatever that actually means then life may die out, but its more likely it would continue on in another form. Just like the life 30k under the surface of the ocean in volcanic vents, 600 feet down in ice, or hi

        • by Jeremi (14640)

          If the oceans 'dried up' whatever that actually means then life may die out, but its more likely it would continue on in another form.

          Of course, if the sun goes red-giant and becomes so large that it encompasses Earth's orbit, it's unlikely that life would continue in the expanding cloud of plasma that used to be Earth.

          We nor anything else is going to 'destroy life on Earth' at any point in time that we're going to find relevant.

          True, but not really relevant -- what's important to us humans is not whether l

    • by mrsteveman1 (1010381) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @05:51PM (#31515930)

      Do the fish look like aliens, or do aliens look like fish?

    • Re:Oceans too (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Arimus (198136) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @06:04PM (#31516132)

      "Some of the found fishes in there are really weird as well and look like aliens."

      How many aliens have you seen to confirm that the fish look like them?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Joe Tie. (567096)
        One. I can verify that he looked like a fish. But he warned me of traps, so I turned back and never saw any ever again.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      In some parts they go down as much as Mount Everest goes up.

      yeah, like your girlfriend!

    • I understand that Nuclear submarines have been under the North polar ice cap many times, surely someone's sent one under the Southern ice sheets by now? Obviously the continent would get in the way of going too far under but even so.....

      I wonder if the relevant governments would be willing to release confirmatory data.
      • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

        by hrimhari (1241292)

        surely someone's sent one under the Southern ice sheets by now?

        I doubt it, since it's a continent. [wikipedia.org] The other is an ocean. [wikipedia.org]

        • I assume the original poster meant the Ice Shelves, and if any submarines have been there, no one's been talking.

          But a few reasons why manned subs might not go underneath the Antarctic ice shelves:

          (1) Said submarines would almost certainly be military, and the military presence in Antarctica is severely limited due to the Antarctic Treaty.

          (2) The ice at the North Pole is thin, and in an emergency a submarine could probably find a way to surface. The ice shelves are thick (600 feet where they bored

          • (4) There are few nearby targets worth wasting a H-bomb on and the targets in range (GWAR, Cthulu etc) are H-bomb resistant and prone to anger.

      • Sending your nuclear armed and powered submarine under the northern ice sheet is the only way to place these weapons along the north coast of the USSR (conversely North America) during the northern winter when the entire region is icebound. A lot of data was gathered so that the parties knew where the ice was passable and thin enough to surface without fatally damaging the submarine. The proximity to a perceived foe and suicidal political imperative to do this does not exist in the south.

        Quite a few unma

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        Ice is a poruis material. If theres water under it, it wicks up into the ice, carrying life with it before it freezes solid. This happens constantly, forming new ice over time and spreading out. As such, ice shelves over the open ocean almost certainly are teaming with various forms of life that can survive at least short term in those conditions. Its not uncommon at all.

        600 feet in ice with no easily available source of large quanties of energy (as we think of energy needed to sustain life) and the fa

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @05:37PM (#31515720)

    A more likely explanation is that the samples were contaminated by the instruments. If we look in the Bible there is no mention that God made this lifeform, therefore the most logical explanation is contamination.

    Sorry to burst your bubble.

  • Europa? (Score:4, Funny)

    by madpanic (176238) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @05:38PM (#31515742)

    I thought we were not allowed to explore Europa?

  • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @05:39PM (#31515778)
    How does it taste?
  • only problem (Score:4, Interesting)

    by khallow (566160) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @05:41PM (#31515806)

    And if such life is possible beneath Earth's oceans, why not elsewhere, like Europa?

    Because Europa is not Antarctica. We get it. Life can live in ice-covered oceans and it can even be complex. This is all idle speculation until someone actually probes Europa to see what's under there.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Of course this is just speculation. However, this broadens the range of environments where we know that complex life, and even self sustaining ecosystems can exist. And that is the true purpose of the Drake equation. Not giving us a probability for life elsewhere, but rather defining the parameter envelope we think is able to sustain life. Every discovery of more extreme ecosystems broadens that envelope - and that is interesting in itself. Now let's get our arse to Europa and Drill, Baby, Drill!
    • Re:only problem (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MozeeToby (1163751) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @05:54PM (#31515978)

      If you're going to point out that Europa is different from Antartica at least take the time to point out how it's different. Namely, the complex life in Antarctica evolved in different, more comfortable conditions. Complex life under hundreds of feet of ice on Earth says nothing about whether or not it's possible for life to begin or become complex in those conditions. It just says that once started, life is very adaptable.

      • Re:only problem (Score:5, Informative)

        by johncadengo (940343) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @06:19PM (#31516312) Homepage

        If you're going to point out that Europa is different from Antartica at least take the time to point out how it's different. Namely, the complex life in Antarctica evolved in different, more comfortable conditions. Complex life under hundreds of feet of ice on Earth says nothing about whether or not it's possible for life to begin or become complex in those conditions. It just says that once started, life is very adaptable.

        But did life really begin in such "comfortable" conditions? I don't think its too far-fetched to imagine most life beginning in even less habitable conditions than it currently thrives in.

        Natural selection seems to suggest that life must be more robust than the pressures of its environment, and that life only becomes less robust if it can afford to do so. Not the other way around.

      • Re:only problem (Score:4, Interesting)

        by DigiShaman (671371) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @06:51PM (#31516646) Homepage

        Some say that life on Earth started (and evolved) around hydrothermal vents where there is no sunlight. The get their energy through a process known as chemosynthesis. If true, life on any ocean bearing planet could become common if not expected. Going to Europa will change those odds one way or another.

    • except Europa. Attempt no landings there." ... and as far as I can tell from wikipedia, it seems 'we' haven't yet? No landers, no hurling things into the surface to see what gets thrown up, no nothing... just flyby missions. hmm..

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by linzeal (197905)
      The question is where did life evolve first in the solar system or did it evolve somewhere else first and was transported here. If panspermia is correct and life can be transported over past the ISM between star systems it is likely any place in the galaxy that is hit by this ' stuff ' will have life.
    • by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @06:14PM (#31516258)

      Life can live in ice-covered oceans and it can even be complex. This is all idle speculation until someone actually probes Europa to see what's under there.

      I just had this image in my head of humans building a colony on Mars, then ET's come by and say "Whoah! This means sentient life could have evolved on barren worlds like Mars!"

    • And if such life is possible beneath Earth's oceans, why not elsewhere, like Europa?

      There's just too many Europeans there for it to possibly sustain life.

    • by tixxit (1107127)
      But it gives us hope. Just imagine if the opposite was true; we could never find life in extreme environments. We'd probably be saying looking for life on other planets is most likely a dead end. Instead, life keeps popping up everywhere, even places you could never imagine.
      • by mark-t (151149)
        That's sort of like somebody who never goes outside saying that it never rains.

        The entire earth is hardly a large enough sample to conclude anything remotely meaningful about life elsewhere.

  • by Sique (173459) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @05:46PM (#31515870) Homepage

    The amphipod is actually a Lysianassid, not a Lyssianasid, if someone tries to google it :)

    • by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @06:17PM (#31516282)

      The amphipod is actually a Lysianassid, not a Lyssianasid, if someone tries to google it :)

      You know, you'd get a lot more points in Scrabble if you'd just learn to shut your yap!

  • These creatures probably depend on free oxygen to live, which comes from plant life on the unglaciated parts of the Earth's surface. This is not an argument against the possibility of life on Europa, it is an argument against assuming that the environment under Europa's ice is as life-friendly that under Antarctica's.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by John Hasler (414242)

      > These creatures probably depend on free oxygen to live, which comes from
      > plant life on the unglaciated parts of the Earth's surface.

      How did the oxygen get down there?

  • by Tumbleweed (3706) * on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @05:47PM (#31515886)

    Get out your torches, and somebody call Kurt Russell, quick!

  • There's apparently more Earth left to see! Before we venture to Mars, lets go look under this ice. The environment is a lot friendlier, comparatively speaking, and there's less distance to cross before we arrive!

    • by Teun (17872)
      Why should we (+6,000 million people) do one and leave the other?
      • by BobMcD (601576)

        Limited resources, namely funding.

        • by Jeremi (14640)

          Limited resources, namely funding.

          There's actually plenty of funding available... for example, in the USA people spend $34 billion per year on their pets. If people thought it was important, they could devote, say, half of their pet-support money to sea and/or space exploration, and that would be plenty to do a lot of exploration of both areas.

          But the truth is, most people just don't put that much importance on exploration. Sad, but true.

  • "...And if such life is possible beneath Earth's oceans, why not elsewhere, like Europa?"

    Well, because the original prototypes developed in warmer climes and adapted to colder environments later on.

    I wouldn't get my hopes up too high about complex life on Europa.

    • by hrimhari (1241292)

      Because you know for a fact that Europa has never been hotter than it is today?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by General Wesc (59919)
        It's been hotter, most likely, but we can be pretty sure that it hasn't had the same energy inputs as the Earth. Heat from the initial formation, yes (though more rapidly dissipating than it did from the much more massive Earth). Sustained, fairly consistent sunlight for billions of years? Not so much.
    • "...And if such life is possible beneath Earth's oceans, why not elsewhere, like Europa?"

      Well, because the original prototypes developed in warmer climes and adapted to colder environments later on.

      I wouldn't get my hopes up too high about complex life on Europa.

      Complex life has evolved in the most punishing environments on earth, 4000 Metres below the surface of the ocean, in volcanic vents (water has a PH of 2.8). Not only complex life but complete ecosystems (these are kind of needed to support

    • Maybe if we don't find any we could put some there. Turn it into the solar systems largest shrimp farm.

      No matter how you look at it Europa is of interest to humans if we plan on expanding into the solar system.

  • Plato on the moon? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @06:02PM (#31516086) Journal

    We know that humans have traveled to the moon. Humans similar in biological content to the famous greek philosopher Plato. So, is it possible that Plato traveled to the Moon?

    Plato was a smart guy, but he couldn't have landed on the moon. Landing on the moon required us to adapt well enough to a very hospitable environment before we could even reach the moon's harsh landscape. I think We might discover the same is true of life. Its more likely to develop in a very hospitable environment and then over time develop the skills necissiary to thrive in harsher climates. I do think we might be able to transplant our extreme lifeforms to other planets. In the same way a lunar rover would probably do okay on the surface of mars as well.

    • by amirulbahr (1216502) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @07:47PM (#31517144)
      I think you are confusing skills acquired with biological adaptations.
    • by Skreems (598317)
      Your implied concept of what is "comfortable" for life involves the mother of all selection biases. We don't know everything about the state of the earth when life originated, but we know for sure it was not what we'd consider "hospitable" based on the majority of life on this planet today. If anything, our current environment is the "extreme" one that life was gradually forced to adapt to... all sorts of unstable, corrosive gasses and exotic chemicals all over the place.
  • Europa (Score:5, Insightful)

    by schnitzi (243781) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @06:03PM (#31516114) Homepage

    >And if such life is possible beneath Earth's oceans, why not elsewhere, like Europa?

    Because saying life can survive somewhere is different than saying it can evolve somewhere.

  • by freaker_TuC (7632) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @06:09PM (#31516202) Homepage Journal

    And if such life is possible beneath Earth's oceans, why not elsewhere, like Europa?

    Yeah, we Europeans are living elsewhere but Earth. We feel more attached to our universe like that...

  • Not likely (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @06:15PM (#31516266)

    I've looked - yes it's damn cold, but I didn't find any signs of complex life.

    (Ps: You misspelt Europe)

  • by Alan R Light (1277886) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @07:25PM (#31516952)

    This doesn't surprise me too much. The SCINI Project [calstate.edu] has been finding neat stuff for some time now, even while they were just testing their equipment.

    Microbes have even been found living in the ice of the polar plateau (at constant temperatures around -50C).

    And check out Anoxycalyx Joubini [escholarship.org] (Volcano Sponge), some specimens of which are thought to be 15,000 years old and still living. These are animals that make those Sequoia look like juveniles.

  • This was an accident that occurred on the fifth day. Also Europa was a trial run. Pay no attention to the unspeakable horrors that lay beneath it's icy surface.
  • Here's the video [youtube.com] ;)

  • Maybe they'll have 3 eyes without all of the yucky radiation.

  • Cthulu? (Score:2, Informative)

    by j33px0r (722130)
    Great....we alerted one of his minions.
  • I wonder why people always talk about possible life on Europa although for layman like me Ganymede seems better candidate: It's big as a planet, less radiation than Europa, molten iron core, water ocean, magnetosphere. All the good stuff and less of the bad.

Truly simple systems... require infinite testing. -- Norman Augustine

Working...