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Hidden undersea world thrives on gas

U.S. scientists have accidentally discovered a thriving oceanic ecosystem a half a mile below an Antarctic ice shelf that collapsed three years ago, according to the journal LiveScience and Eos, a newspaper of the American Geophysical Union.

On a recent Antarctic expedition, a crew of scientists from the U.S. Antarctic Program stumbled on a community of clams and a thin layer of bacteria growing on the sea floor, despite a lack of sun and freezing conditions. Found in a deep glacial trough twice the size of Texas, the organisms did not use photosynthesis to make energy. But rather they thrived on methane produced by the Earth and released by underwater vents, according to the report.

The ecosystem is known as a "cold-vent"--the first of which was discovered in 1984 in Monterey, California. The discovery is a first found in the Antarctic and could lead to further explorations of a fresh water lake that's two miles below the surface, the report said.