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Scientists drilling into a buried Antarctic lake 600 kilometres from the South Pole have found surprising signs of ancient life: the carcasses of tiny animals preserved under a kilometre of ice.
The crustaceans and a tardigrade, or ‘water bear’ — all smaller than poppy seeds — were found in Subglacial Lake Mercer, a body of water that had lain undisturbed for thousands of years. Until now, humans had seen the lake only indirectly, through ice-penetrating radar and other remote-sensing techniques. But that changed on 26 December when researchers funded by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) succeeded in melting a narrow portal through the ice to the water below.
Discovering the animals there was “fully unexpected”, says David Harwood, a micro-palaeontologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who is part of the expedition — known as SALSA (Subglacial Antarctic Lakes Scientific Access).
The intrigue deepened when biologists realized that at least some of the beasts from Lake Mercer were landlubbers. The eight-legged tardigrade resembles species known to inhabit damp soils. What looked like worms were actually the tendrils of a land-dwelling plant or fungus. And although the scientists couldn’t rule out the possibility that the crustaceans had been ocean denizens, they might just as easily have come from small, ice-covered lakes.
originally posted by: LookingAtMars
a reply to: TheTruthRocks
They are really cool looking and can survive very extreme conditions. They expel the water from their body and hibernate when conditions get too extreme. They go into a kind of suspended animation.
The name "water bear" comes from the way they walk, reminiscent of a bear's gait.
The biggest adults may reach a body length of 1.5 mm (0.059 in), the smallest below 0.1 mm. Newly hatched tardigrades may be smaller than 0.05 mm.
All adult tardigrades of the same species have the same quantity of cells (see eutely). Some species have as many as 40,000 cells in each adult, while others have far fewer.