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Scientists find the remains of tiny animals in a lake deep beneath Antarctic ice

Antarctic subglacial lakes (black and white dots)Antarctic subglacial lakes (black and white dots)Scientists have found the remains of tiny animals in a lake one kilometre beneath Antarctic ice that has lain undisturbed for thousands of years. The minute carcasses of crustaceans and tardigrades, also known as “water bears” or “moss piglets”, were discovered by a US research team drilling into the Mercer subglacial lake about 600 kilometres (370 miles) from the South Pole. The discovery suggests that life may exist in more complex forms underneath the ice sheet in Antarctica than previously thought.



Radar satellite image of Lake Vostok Radar satellite image of Lake Vostok

Subglacial lakes

Lake Mercer is a subglacial lake sandwiched beneath the thick ice sheet and the frozen rocks of Antarctica. There are many such lakes—around 250–300 are currently known, with Lake Vostok by far the largest. Lake Mercer covers an area of about 139 square kilometres (54 square miles) and may be linked to other subglacial lakes by a network of subglacial rivers.



How do lakes form?

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