One three-inch shrimp - happily swimming under 180m of ice, 20km from open water - has shattered all scientists' theories on life-harbouring environments. An impossible discovery that opens the possibility of complex extra-terrestrial life in our Solar System:
We were operating on the presumption that nothing's there. It was a shrimp you'd enjoy having on your plate. We were just gaga over it.
Those are the words of NASA's Robert Bindschadler. Until now, scientists thought that only microbial life could live under these conditions. And not many microbes, actually. Instead, not only they found this Lyssianasid amphipod under the hard ice of West Antarctica, but also a tentacle belonging to an estimated 0.3m-long jellyfish.
Stacy Kim - one of the biologists in NASA's ice science team - says that they don't really have a clue about what is happening down there, but that it is highly improbable that these animals swam all the way from open water.
They are looking at the equivalent of a drop of water in a swimming pool that you would expect nothing to be living in and they found not one animal but two. We have no idea what's going on down there. It's pretty amazing when you find a huge puzzle like that on a planet where we thought we know everything.
Kim affirms that it's unlikely that this is an statistical anomaly, and thinks that there should be plenty of complex life down there, even while they don't have a clue about how these creatures could survive under these conditions.
The most important consequence of this discovery, however, is the impact on the search for life in other planets and moons in our own Solar System. Could this mean that we would be able find complex lifeforms under the seas of Europa? We don't know, but at least now this may be a possibility. The most important question, however, is: Would the shrimps in Europa get pissed off when they learn that we like to eat Earth shrimps grilled with sea salt?