What could be living in these icy caves ? Image Credit: PD-USGOV-NOAA
Earth’s southernmost continent might not be the most obvious place to look for warm, habitable environments, but according to a new study, some of the cave systems situated beneath the icy wastes of Antarctica are not only warm but are also potentially teeming with life.
The caves hollowed out around Mt Erebus on Antarctica’s Ross Island for instance are so warm that it is possible to comfortably wander around them without even needing a coat.
Light can also make its way down in to the caves where the ice above is particularly thin.
By examining soil samples collected from these caves, the scientists were able to find evidence of mosses, algae and even small animals.
“The results from this study give us a tantalizing glimpse of what might live beneath the ice in Antarctica – there might even be new species of animals and plants,” said Dr Ceridwen Fraser.
The next step of the research will involve actively seeking out organisms within the cave system.
“If they exist, it opens the door to an exciting new world,” said Professor Laurie Connell.