An Antarctic Animal Mass Grave Baffles Scientists


Lake Mercer in Antarctica has been the site of a bizarre find. Scientists have uncovered what looks like an animal graveyard about a kilometer below a layer of ice on the lake. Some of the animal remains found include the bodies of various tiny creatures like spiders, worms, and crustaceans. The carcasses were found about 370 miles from the South Pole.

Uncovering a Mystery

The discovery was made in December last year. Scientists began drilling at the Antarctic lake. After going through just over half a mile of ice, they noticed something peculiar. Underneath the layer of ice that has been over the lake for many thousands of years, they began to pull out mud containing the animal carcasses. They first noticed the tiny remains when they looked at the mud and water using a microscope.

The first group of scientists to examine the lake and take samples belonged to the Subglacial Antarctic Lakes Scientific Access or SALSA. This team included Harwood, a micropaleontologist at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He has experience doing research on microscopic creature fossils. Other creatures that might have been discovered by this group of researchers include water bear remains. Unlike the name, these are actually microscopic critters. They are also known as tardigrades. DNA analysis is being used to ID the creatures found.

The most intriguing part about the discovery is that this could be evidence of higher levels of life so close to the South Pole. Until this find, it was believed that the largest organisms that could survive in the icy Lake Mercer were microbes. The researchers are looking into whether these creatures were merely passing by or actually lived in that area. Their bodies could also have been washed into the area. A similar sampling of a different lake in Antarctica conducted in 2013 only revealed the existence of only microbes.

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