According to a group of Australian scientists investigating ice caves under Antarctica’s glaciers, they are now so warm they could support animals and plants.
Around Mount Erebus, an active volcano on Ross Island in Antarctica, steam has hollowed out cave systems there. Forensic analyses of soil samples from these caves have revealed traces of DNA from algae, mosses, and small animals Dr. Ceridwen Fraser from the ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society says.
“It can be really warm inside the caves, up to 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit) in some caves,” Fraser says. “You could wear a T-shirt in there and be pretty comfortable. There’s light near the cave mouths, and light filters deeper into some caves where the overlying ice is thin.”
According to Science Alert: Co-researcher Professor Craig Cary, from the University of Waikato in New Zealand, says previous research found that diverse bacterial and fungal communities lived in Antarctica’s volcanic caves.
“The findings from this new study suggest there might be higher plants and animals as well,” Professor Cary said.
Dr. Charles Lee, another co-researcher from the University of Waikato, says there are many other volcanoes in Antarctica, so subglacial cave systems could be common across the icy continent.
“We don’t yet know just how many cave systems exist around Antarctica’s volcanoes, or how interconnected these subglacial environments might be. They’re really difficult to identify, get to, and explore,” Dr. Lee says.
Source: Science Alert