Scientists in Antarctica have found preserved carcasses of tiny animals in a mysterious lake buried under more than 3,500 feet of ice.
Mercer Subglacial Lake is a hydraulically active lake that lies more 1000m beneath the Whillans Ice Plain, a fast moving section of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.
Researchers managed to drill into the lake for the first time earlier this year, and have now revealed they found signs of life.
According to Nature, researchers found the remains of crustaceans and a tardigrade, or ‘water bear’ in the icy depths.
They even say life could still exist there.
Discovering the animals was ‘fully unexpected’, 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), told Nature.
The team are unsure how the creatures got there, but one theory is that they inhabited ponds and streams in the Transantarctic Mountains 50km away during brief warm periods, which occurred in the past 10,000 years or 120,000 years ago, and somwhow were transported to Mercer Lake.
However, when the climate cooled, the animals were left trapped in an icy grave.
The pool of water, known as Subglacial Lake Mercer, measures nearly 62 square miles, was discovered more than a decade ago through satellite images but has never been explored.