Antarctic explorers find thriving sea creature community under the frozen landscape 

Scientists exploring the frigid waters of Antarctica uncovered a diverse and thriving sea creature community nestled beneath the frozen cover.

As part of the Australian Antarctic Program, researchers drilled through a roughly 5-foot-thick ice sheet and plunged a camera-equipped ROV into the minus 30-degree Fahrenheit sea.

Under the sea in Antarctica
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Under the sea in Antarctica

Weddell seal and pup swimming underwater in Antarctica.

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A cable portrudes from the ice wall at Explorers Cover, New Harbor, McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. The cable is used for the Remotely Operable Micro-Environmental Observatory (ROMEO), an underwater camera. Connected to onshore equipment and linked by radio to

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The Marbled Rockcod (Notothenia rossii) copes with the icy waters of Antarctica by means of a biological antifreeze in its body fluids, Antarctica.

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Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba), key species in the Antarctic ecosystem. Grows to 6 cm and occurs in densities ranging up to 30,000 in a cubic metre. 

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Unidentified large jellyfish in brash ice, Cierva Cove, Antarctica, Southern Ocean, Polar Regions.

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Icefish in Antarctica have no scales or haemoglobin, so their blood is white.

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Antarctic Sea star (Odontaster validus) in Antarctica.

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Antarctic Sea urchin, (Sterechinus neumayeri) with camouflage attached, Antarctica.

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Antarctic Limpet (Nacella concinna) in Antarctica.

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Barbed plunder fish in Antarctic underwater.

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Antarctica, Cuverville Island, Underwater view of Comb Jellyfish swimming beneath ice along plankton-filled shallow water.

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Orange yellow anemone surrounded by brown algae, Antarctica.

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Two yellow sea stars and white worm strands, Antarctica.

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According to a report released by the Australian Antarctic Division, the footage revealed a vibrant mix of, "...coconut-shaped sponges, dandelion-like worms, pink encrusting algae and spidery starfish."

Dr. Glenn Johnstone, one of the researchers, said, "Occasionally an iceberg may move around and wipe out an unlucky community, but mostly the sea ice provides protection from the storms that rage above, making it a relatively stable environment in which biodiversity can flourish."

Though the underwater inhabitants are shielded from harm due to storms, they may not be so fortunate when faced with aggressive ocean acidification, a byproduct of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Water-dwellers in the Antarctic are especially vulnerable to such changes and are being studied for potential insights on what the future may hold for other sea populations.

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