Ancient jellyfish discovered beneath Arctic ice in winter shocks scientists

'Life under sea ice is like living in a refrigerator - everything slows down'

Tom Embury-Dennis
Thursday 26 October 2017 11:29
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Ancient jellyfish discovered beneath Arctic ice in winter shocks scientists

Ancient jellyfish have been found beneath living the Arctic ice, surprising scientists who thought the animals could not survive the winter.

Scientists had believed that the Chrysaora melanaster could only survive a few months. It was believed that throughout winter they turned into strange, formless masses that would cling to rock and release baby jellyfish in the spring.

But after using snowmobiles too access the frozen terrain on the Chukchi Sea, west of Point Barrow, Alaska, a team from Columbia University discovered the creatures floating their foot-long tentacles along the bottom of the shallow waters.

Footage take after they dropped camera attached to a small underwater vehicle through a hole they drilled through the four-foot thick ice, Dr Andy Juhl and colleagues were able to observe jellyfish.

“One reason we were interested was, first of all, we saw them, and it was kind of weird,” he said after the findings were published in the Marine Ecology journal.

He added that they believed that the cold winters in the Arctic, when the sea ice is thick, is good for the jellyfish. The ice shields the creatures from winter storms and the cold temperatures allow them to slow down their metabolism.

“Life under sea ice is like living in a refrigerator - everything slows down,” he said.

While jellyfish are generally thought to be benefiting from climate change, Mr Juhl suggests it could have the opposite effect for the creatures in the Arctic.

The Chrysaora melanaster's bell can grow up to 60cm long with tentacles that stretch more than three metres. It carries a painful, but non-deadly sting.

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