At nearly 200 meters below the ice, there is no light, the temperature is way below 0 degrees, and scientists were expecting to find nothing more than a handful of microbes – and for good reason. So it’s easy to understand why they were so surprised to find not a single (evolved) life form, but actually two such creatures.

Antarctica Sea Life

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration lowered the camera, in an attempt to look deep in the underbelly of Antarctica’s ice; not long after that, a shrimp-like creature swam by and then “landed” on the cable. Scientists also picked up a tentacle that they believe can only come from a jellyfish – a pretty big one too.

“We were operating on the presumption that nothing’s there,” said NASA ice scientist Robert Bindschadler, who will be presenting the initial findings and a video at an American Geophysical Union meeting Wednesday. “It was a shrimp you’d enjoy having on your plate. We were just gaga over it,” he said of the 3-inch-long (76-millimeter, orange critter starring in their two-minute video.

The video forces experts to rethink what they previously believed about where evolved animals can survive in extreme environments; if they can live in this freezing underwater environment, why not on Europa, the frozen moon of Jupiter, or other such places?

“This is a first for the sub-glacial environment with that level of sophistication,” Ellis-Evans said. He said there have been findings somewhat similar, showing complex life in retreating ice shelves, but nothing quite directly under the ice like this.

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