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> Living in ice
Michael Tiger Kaden-Hoffmann
post Jul 21 2005, 08:02 AM
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I was just wondering if there is any life in the ice, like small creatures or animals.
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post Jul 25 2005, 10:39 AM
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Group: TREC Team
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Thanks for your question. In researching your question I found this excerpt from the Missoulan Newspaper.

Many of the study sites are, like Alaska's glaciers, extreme places with extreme lifeforms - exactly the kinds of spots kids love to learn about but don't necessarily want to visit in person. The worms Shain is chasing there are as uncommon as their landscape.

First discovered for science in 1887 by glacial geologist and theologian George Frederick Wright, ice worms have eluded careful study for more than a century. The tiny creatures - less than 1 inch long - live inside glacial ice, feeding during summer nights on the red algae that grow on the glaciers' surface.

Following mysterious circadian rhythms, the worms burrow up and down through the ice - up in the dark, down in the daylight, propelled by tiny hooks, or setae bristles, that grow from their sides.

The worms exist only on coastal glaciers from Alaska south to Washington's Mount Rainier, and have proved a tough nut to crack. Hearty enough to live in this frozen world, they are so fragile that they melt and disintegrate at a few degrees above freezing, and freeze to death at much below freezing. They have no eyes, but somehow respond to light and dark. They have enormous mouths for their size, and are equipped with a large hole at the top of their heads.

Perhaps, Shain said, the hole secretes mucus to keep them from drying out. Perhaps it secretes a lubricant to help them slide through their icy channels. Perhaps it pumps out salt to melt the ice in front of them as they burrow along.

Perhaps not.

By understanding the mystery hole, as well as other evolutionary adaptations for living in such extreme cold, Shain hopes to answer practical questions about human organ transplant, about space travel, and about the possibility of life elsewhere in the solar system.

"When you want to preserve something, what do you do with it?" he asked. "You put it in the refrigerator. I have the same theory about ice worms. They spend their lives on ice, at temperatures that freeze human flesh and kill most other life forms. If scientists can unravel the ice worm's secret, we could potentially learn how to keep human organs alive on ice longer than a few hours to help organ transplant patients."

In addition, he said, if ice worms can live and reproduce in such unlikely spots, perhaps they are an analogue for life on other planets

Hope this helps you out--I found it pretty interesting.
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