Teacher’s questions for Animals under Antarctic ice


Before reading

  1. Describe what you know about Antarctica and its climate.
  2. What types of plants, animals or other organisms would you expect to find there?

During reading

  1. Describe at least four things about Lake Vostok that contribute to making it special.
  2. Scientists have just found evidence for what kinds of living things there? Name at least five types of organisms in this group.
  3. Describe how scientists have turned up evidence for these species.
  4. Why had scientists expected the life in Vostok’s waters to all be microbes?
  5. Some scientists think evidence for animals in Lake Vostok may be due to contamination. Name three possible sources for that contamination.
  6. Name three ways that Scott Rogers and his colleagues tried to eliminate any influence of such contamination.
  7. With no plants and photosynthesis in the dark lake, what might be a source of food and energy for anything living in Vostok’s waters?
  8. Describe the “fossil” DNA that Eske Willerslev found in Greenland.
  9. When did the Russian team reach the surface of Lake Vostok? When did an American team reach the surface of Lake Whillans?

After reading

  1. How many hours of sunlight are there in Antarctica during the middle of summer? How many hours of darkness are there during mid-winter? What makes the lengths of days and nights there so much more exaggerated than in your home town? Explain role of the tilt of Earth’s axis.
  2. Most scientists working on samples from Lakes Vostok and Whillans do most their analyses back in their home labs. Why does that make sense? Hint: How long can they work in Antarctica and how much equipment would they need to have available?
  3. Imagine that you received an opportunity to join a research team working at a subglacial lake in Antarctica. Over what three month period would you most likely be asked to show up? Why those months and no other?


  1. Most people heading for Antarctica depart from Christchurch, New Zealand, or Ushuaia, Argentina. Use a map and calculate the distance from your home town to each of these departure cities.
  2. A treaty to protect Antarctica was signed into law in 1959. What does it call for? And what does it say about who can “own” parts of Antarctica?