ibnlive » Tech

Jun 18, 2007 at 08:30pm IST

Secret life found in Antarctica's ice

New Delhi: Antarctica, the coldest, driest, and windiest continent—that remains a mystery for scientists and voyagers revealed one the most intriguing secrets when a group of voyagers found some mystical creatures beneath the meting ice.

Scientists found 19 new marine species, while they were exploring the untouched Antarctic waters. Orange sea stars, fan-finned ice fish and herds of roving sea cucumbers are among the exotic creatures spied off the Antarctic coast in an area formerly covered by ice, scientists reported Sunday.

Among the new species is a shrimp like no other. At four inches long it is larger than many found in temperate climes – so big, in fact, that some may wonder at its right still to be called a shrimp.

ANTARCTIC WILDLIFE: An orange sea star is one of the unusual creatures found by an Antarctic expedition.

The expedition, part of the global Census of Marine Life, explored an area a third the size of Belgium and found the remains of one of the most pristine ecosystems on the planet, where sparse numbers of deep-sea species have survived for thousands of years below the ice.

This is the first time explorers have been able to catalog wildlife where two mammoth ice shelves extend for some 3,900 square miles over the Weddell Sea.

There are no penguins, however, showing that it takes many more years for their rookeries to move and become established. Lots of fish, such as Antarctic herring, have also moved into the area.

On the sea bed, 52 scientists on the German research vessel Polarstern found fields of colonising gelatinous sea squirts and herds of sea cucumbers on the move.

Julian Gutt, of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research and chief scientist on the expedition, said: "Until now, scientists have glimpsed life under Antarctica's ice sheets only through drill holes. We were in the unique position of being able to sample wherever we wanted."

Scientists were intrigued to find abundant deep sea lilies, species normally living at depths of 2,000 metres, along with their relatives, sea cucumbers and sea urchins.

With excerpts from The Telegraph, UK