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Life deep beneath Antarctica’s ice shelves


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Life under Antarctic

Mains level: Not Much

Researchers have accidentally discovered living under the ice shelves of the Antarctic — in extremely cold and harsh conditions.

Life beneath the Antarctic

  • Scientists have discovered sessile sponges — a pore bearing multicellular organism and other alien species — attached to the sides of rock beneath the ice sheets.
  • The unidentified species are estimated to be related to sponges, ascidians (sea squirts), hydroids, barnacles, cnidarian or polychaete. All of these look like bristle worms.
  • Scientists are yet to discover how these organisms access food.
  • They would use Environment Deoxyribonucleic acid (e-DNA) technology in future to identify the organisms.

Organisms discovered


  • Sponges are the members of the phylum Porifera.
  • They are multicellular organisms that have bodies full of pores and channels allowing water to circulate through them, consisting of jelly-like mesohyl sandwiched between two thin layers of cells.


  • Ascidians, or sea squirts, are invertebrate chordates that belong to the earliest branch in the chordate phylum.
  • Ascidians are found all over the world, usually in shallow water with salinities over 2.5%.


  • Hydroids are a life stage for most animals of the class Hydrozoa, small predators related to jellyfish.
  • Some hydroids such as the freshwater Hydra are solitary, with the polyp attached directly to the substrate.


  • Barnacles are a highly specialized group of crustaceans.
  • A barnacle is a type of arthropod related to crabs and lobsters.


  • Cnidarians, also called coelenterate, any member of the phylum Cnidaria (Coelenterata), a group made up of more than 9,000 living species.
  • Mostly marine animals, the cnidarians include the corals, hydras, jellyfish, Portuguese men-of-war, sea anemones, sea pens, sea whips, and sea fans.

Now take this chance to revise your biology basics on various phyla. It will be beneficial for state PSC exams. UPSC has also begun puzzling us on core biology questions.

Defying old theories

  • The discovery has left many of them baffled for it contradicts earlier theories of non-survival of life in such extreme conditions.
  • Until now, scientists believed that sea life decreased with an increase in the depth of the Antarctic ice floor.

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