(ORDO NEWS) — Under the ice of the fifth largest continent of the Earth, for example, more than 400 lakes have been discovered, but scientists have reached only four of them. It is noteworthy that Russian scientists were the first to reach the lakes under Antarctica – in 2012, water samples from Lake Vostok were obtained. They found three bacteria specific to this particular reservoir.
Now microbiologists and geneticists do not lose hope of discovering other forms of life in the subglacial Antarctic lake, which were not previously known to science. Like, for example, bacteria WPS-2 and AD3 – they live in the soil with other organisms and do not need either solar or geothermal energy. With a very meager supply of nutrients, they literally switched to the “air diet”, which was a discovery for scientists.
But under-ice finds in Antarctica are not limited to lakes. Not so long ago, scientists discovered under the Thwaites Glacier a gigantic cavity with an area of about 40 square kilometers and a height of about 300 meters, which was formed by the melting of about 14 billion tons of ice.
For specialists, this is a wake-up call for a number of reasons. First, most of this ice has melted over the past three years. Secondly, such cavities significantly reduce the strength of icebergs. And this is fraught with the acceleration of their destruction and the rise in the level of the world ocean.
However, not all cavities under the ice are formed due to ice melting. The researchers also found craters that, on the contrary, are filled with water, creating new subglacial lakes. Their distinctive feature is only that they are not isolated from the world’s oceans, and therefore can hardly be a habitat for life forms hitherto unknown to science, and from the point of view of discoveries they are not so interesting for researchers.
In addition to lakes and cavities, Antarctica also has active volcanoes (and a total of 91 volcanoes were found on the continent) – for example, Mount Erebus on Ross Island, which, due to its volcanic activity, has created a fairly developed network of sub-ice caves. In these “caches” melted in ice by volcanic steam, scientists discovered several DNA sequences that did not correspond to any known organisms.
This means that in these caves there may be species of plants or animals still unknown to science. Moreover, the researchers are very optimistic and do not exclude the possibility of finding even unique ecosystems, and not just individual organisms.
Another mystery that the continent has thrown to scientists is the mysterious aftershocks that shake Antarctica every night. However, the secret did not last long. Having studied the unusual phenomenon, the researchers came to the conclusion that the ice surface is capable of creating small earthquakes, or rather even icequakes.
The tremors recorded by seismographs allowed scientists to determine that this is how ice melting and the surface movements caused by it manifest themselves.
I must say that the above discoveries are only a small part of what scientists have learned about Antarctica in recent years. And one can only guess how many more secrets this mysterious continent keeps under its ice.
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