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.
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.