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Amazing sea creatures: Life Under the Ice

Updated on September 10, 2011

Under the ice

Nature holds so much magnificent surprises for us, sometimes the beauty of it blows our minds or the solutions it has come up with for the determination to survive. It is amazing how well animals can adept to extreme environments in order to survive. Men could learn a lot from the adaptive power of nature, it always finds solutions to problems to continue spreading live in the world.

Fragment from: Encounters at the end of the world

Sterechinus neumayeri
Sterechinus neumayeri
These structures that look like glass tulips are actually worms
These structures that look like glass tulips are actually worms
Brittle stars
Brittle stars
Diplulmaris antarctica
Diplulmaris antarctica
Giant antarctic jellyfish
Giant antarctic jellyfish
Beautiful jellyfish
Beautiful jellyfish
Antarctic Octopus
Antarctic Octopus | Source
Ice fish among brittle stars
Ice fish among brittle stars
An antarctic sea spider
An antarctic sea spider

One of the adaptions is the ability to live under a thick layer of ice. Maybe it sounds hard to believe but even under a thick layer of ice in subzero temperatures it never gets lonely. Organisms living in these parts of the sea encounter several problems for which a solution has to be found.

  • Extremely cold temperatures
  • Low light intensity
  • under the ice not a lot of food can be found

Most organisms living in cold regions (think of penguins, seals etc.) have a thick fat layer around their body as an isolation layer. Being a large creature also helps, this is because of the low surface to volume ratio. Smaller creatures that live under the ice have other means to cope with the cold. Most of them synthesize various kinds of glycoproteins or peptides in their cells that help lower the freezing temperature of their intracellular fluids. This works a lot like antifreeze which can be bought to use in cars etc.

There are some disadvantages to the adaptation to subzero temperatures. Most of these creatures are so well adapted to their cold environments that they cannot survive when temperature in goes above 3 degrees celsius. Next to that living in these cold places reduces metabolism and most subzero sea creatures move very slowly. This does mean however that they usually live quite long.

Life under the ice is harsh and the adaptations needed to survive make the creatures that can be found look like something straight out of a Sci-fi movie. But these alien-like looks make them look amazing.

Creatures under the ice:

Sea urchin:

A lot of sea urchins can be found on the ocean floor beneath the ice. Sterechinus neumayeri is one of the species that lives for example under the ice of antarctica. these creatures can live to be 40 years old, except from their adaptation to the extreme cold these sea urchin look and behave the same as their warmer relatives.


Different kinds of starfish can be found underneath the ice. Walking brittle stars with their long arms in groups make you think you no longer reside on planet earth. The more regular starfish do also dwell the ocean floors. These fish feed on others (mostly corpses) by attaching themselves with the mouth, then pushing out their stomach which secretes digestive enzymes nd the food gets digested outside of their body. Feeding for starfish is thus a slow proces, but at these temperatures everything goes slowly so this is no problem at all.


The worms living under the ice are Nemertea, also known as proboscis worms or ribbon worms. The exact species is Parbolasia corrugates. These worms can become 3 meters long but usually are about 2 meters long. They do not have a respitory system but take up oxygen direct through their skin, which is a useful skill in subzero waters. The worms are scavengers but do sometimes eat other living creatures. It kills its prey with his proboscis, which is an elongated appendage which comes from the head of the worm. On the end of the proboscis it has a sharp needle/horn with which it stabs its prey. Some other amazing worms are a species of the subphylum Uchordata and look like glass tulips (see second picture). These worms can be a meter long and eat plankton by pumping sea water through their internal structures.


A lot of beautiful jellyfish live under the ice, such as Diplulmaris antarctica, this jellyfish is only 4 cm wide and eats even smaller lifeforms in the ocean like copepods or all kinds of larvae. many more bigger species of jellyfish reside in the cold waters, listing them goes beyond the point of this article, but some pictures are included.


Octopuses can be seen under the antarctic ice, although rare they do sometimes venture into the subzero waters. Amazingly these creatures have a venom which works even at these extreme low temperatures. Normal venoms would lose their function in these cold waters, but surprisingly this venom does not. The exact trick behind this sub zero venom is still not known.


Cold waters do also contain fish, the ice fish with its appropriate name has species which only have 1% of the hemoglobin that normal fish have. This too is an adaptation to their cold environtment, the cold waters contain a lot more oxygen then warmer waters do. Bigger fish like the whale or Orca are also adapted to cold waters with thick fat layers for isolation.

Sea Spiders:

Although these creatures aren't really spiders they to resemble them. The sea spiders are athropods (like scorpions and crabs) and have long legs in comparison to their body (see video below). They feed on small jellyfish, worms or sponges and are predators or scavengers. The walk the see floor or swim just above it using their long legs. The sea spiders that were found under the ice of antarctica were quite big, some with the size of dinner plates!

Deep sea knowledge

There is still so much we do not know about the depths of the sea. More information about outer space is available then information about the oceans which cover about 60-70% of our own planet. Lots and lots of new species are still being found by scientists. This fact also holds for the exciting world that can be found beneath the ice. Nature still has a lot of amazing surprises in store for us.....

Life under the ice

Sea spiders from Antarctica


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    • profile image

      Issy 3 years ago

      This inoutdrces a pleasingly rational point of view.

    • profile image

      Candy 3 years ago

      Ppl like you get all the brsian. I just get to say thanks for he answer.

    • profile image

      R. J. Lefebvre 6 years ago


      There are so many variations of life forms within the mass of earth environments, they are likely to outlive mankind. Your hub opens the door of understanding life forms in the harshest environments, no doubt, there more to learn.


    • Beata Stasak profile image

      Beata Stasak 6 years ago from Western Australia

      what a beauty and danger and life is hiding beneath the ice we don't know about...thank you for bringing it to our attention:)...all the best from Beata

    • prektjr.dc profile image

      Debbie Carey 6 years ago from Riverton, KS, USA

      Great hub - love the amazing pics and videos. I have always loved jellyfish! Congratulations on your hubnugget nomination, good luck! Voted up, interesting and awesome!

    • Cashbackshopper profile image

      Cashbackshopper 6 years ago

      Cool Videos. Amazing creatures. Those spiders looked like some dancing creature.

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 6 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Cool photos and what amazing sea creatures indeed. :D

      Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination! This way to read and vote:

    • tarrka1089 profile image

      tarrka1089 6 years ago from Ohio

      So do you do any diving yourself? I have never done ice, cave or deep dives - the farthest down on my gauge was 90 ft. in the Bahamas. Nice hub and congrats on your HubNugget nomination. [voted up and interesting]

    • DavyJones02 profile image

      DavyJones02 6 years ago from Netherlands


    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 6 years ago

      I wasn't aware these creatures were called ice fish or brittle stars. Congratulations on your hubnugget nomination

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

      That sterechinus neumayeri is NOT messing around. I didn't know that sea urchins could look like that! This is positively fascinating.

    • profile image

      jasper420 6 years ago

      very intresting hub well put togeather