Questions for ‘A weird upside-down world lurks beneath Antarctica’s ice’

an underwater close-up of an ice anemone attached to the bottom of an ice shelf

This anemone lives in a burrow carved into the underside of an Antarctic ice shelf. Photographer Laurent Ballesta captured a rare look at this ice-dweller while on a dive. The photo is part of a portfolio for which Ballesta won Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2022 from the London Natural History Museum.

© Laurent Ballesta

To accompany ‘A weird upside-down world lurks beneath Antarctica’s ice


Before Reading:

  1. How many types of organisms can you think of that live in and around Antarctica? In which parts of the environment do these species live?
  2. Organisms on Earth have adapted to live in many different environments, including some that seem very extreme to us. What is an important adaptation for an organism that lives in a very dry place? In a very cold place? In a dark place?

During Reading:

  1. What is Icefin? What did its camera spot in 2020?
  2. What is one main difference between the anemones Britney Schmidt saw and those that live on the seafloor?
  3. Why did people assume for so long that there was little or no life beneath ice shelves?
  4. What challenges did John Oliver encounter when trying to study anemones from the ice?
  5. What method did Bob Zook devise to be able to collect anemone specimens?
  6. What adaptations have the Antarctic anemones had to make to live in the ice?
  7. How much ice melts off the underside of the Thwaites Ice Shelf each day, on average?
  8. What are five types of organisms described living in an upside-down aquatic ecosystem under the ice?
  9. How does Paul Cziko think fish living under the ice might stay close to the underside of the ice? What evidence described in the story supports this?
  10. Where do scientists think organisms living in the dark under the ice get their food?

After Reading:

  1. When talking about the existence of undiscovered species below Antarctica’s ice shelves, Craig Smith is quoted as saying, “It’s not just possible, it’s a certainty.” Why do you think he believes this? Based on what you read in the story, do you agree or disagree with Smith? Give at least two reasons to support your answer.
  2. The story describes some of Marymegan Daly’s ideas about how ice-dwelling anemones may make their burrows. What are two of her hypotheses? For each, describe how you might test whether it is correct, including how you would collect any samples you would need.