Antarctica has been in the wildlife news for most of the history of this blog. Researchers are finding more and more evidence of a vast world of life beneath the southern ocean. The Antarctic undersea world is vast, and experts say previous estimates of its potential size may have been underestimated.
Some of our earliest coverage involved the discovery of a gigantic hatchery of the amazing ice fish. That hatchery was located under the Weddel Sea. That hatchery covered an estimated 92 square miles.
Now Newsweek and other outlets are reporting that the recent discovery of an undersea Antarctic world which could be truly gigantic. At least that is the possibility. Researchers have found huge amounts of phytoplankton and bacteria in unexpected places. It raises the distinct chance that larger more advanced life forms abound too.
Newsweek quoted Christopher Horvat:
“Finding these blooms helps challenge the paradigm that regions under sea ice are devoid of life, and introduces important new questions about the food webs that might lie under the ice in Antarctica,” Christopher Horvat, who led the study, published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science, told Newsweek.”We think they could cover up to 5 million square kilometers of the under-ice region in the Southern Ocean.”
Horvat was discussing phytoplankton, which is the basis of much sea life. Sharks and whales strain tons of various planktons as a major food source in cold and warm waters. Where there is plankton, the theory is, there will be creatures that eat it.
The conditions are extreme and the discovery of life is suprising.
Newsweek quoted Huw Griffiths of the British Antarctic Survey:
“Animals surviving deep under ice shelves need to be adapted to extreme cold, with water temperatures as low as -2.2 degrees Celsius (28 degrees Fahrenheit),” Griffiths said. “They would also need to be adapted to low amounts of food, in a similar way to deep sea creatures. These organisms live hundreds of kilometers from the nearest daylight and sources of fresh phytoplankton.”
He was referring to the fact that life has been found under the floating ice in the southern ocean and deep under the thicker land ice on the Antarctic continent.