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Researchers find secret, warm oasis beneath Antarctica’s ice…

11. September 2017 | Geschichte | Wissenschaft | Forschung | National Post | YouTube

Researchers find secret, warm oasis beneath Antarctica’s ice that could be home to undiscovered species

A study of the subglacial caves could reveal new undiscovered animal or plant species living comfortably due to the heat of an active volcano

Deep within Antarctica’s ice caves, a group of scientists may have discovered a secret ecosystem of plants and animals being supported by the warmth of an active volcano.

Although average year-long temperatures on Ross Island hover around -17C, including six months between April and September where they don’t rise above -20C, the temperature in cave systems beneath the glaciers can reach 25C.

“You could wear a T-shirt in there and be pretty comfortable,” lead researcher Ceridwen Fraser said. “There’s light near the cave mouths, and light filters deeper into some caves where the overlying ice is thin.”

Located around and beneath Mount Erebus, an active volcano, the caves have been hollowed out after years of steam travelling through their passages. The study of the caves, led by the Australian National University, evolved into an analysis of the soil within. Fraser revealed that it contained traces of DNA from algae, mosses and even small animals that could be living in the underground oasis.

This undated hand out picture released by the Australian National University on September 8, 2017 and taken by Michael S. Becker shows inside view of an ice cave in Antartica. A secret world of animals and plants may live in warm caves under Antarctica’s glaciers, including new species, scientists said on September 8, 2017. MICHAEL S. BECKER/AFP/Getty Images

Most of the DNA, Fraser admits, is similar to that of species living on the surface. However, not all the sequences studied could be linked to a particular animal or plant group, meaning Fraser may be on the cusp of discovering new lifeforms as well.


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