Thriving in conditions that would turn most living things to Popsicles, these inch-long earthworm cousins inhabit glaciers and snowfields in the coastal ranges of Alaska, British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. They move through seemingly solid ice with ease and are at their liveliest near the freezing point of water. Warm them up slightly and they dissolve into goo.
Their life cycle remains a mystery.
NASA anted up $200,000 last year to explore the worms’ cold tolerance and what it might say about the possibility of life on Jupiter’s icy moons and other planets. That work could also improve cold storage of organs and tissues for transplantation.
As glaciers shrink in the face of global warming, interest is growing in ice worms and other animals whose habitat could melt away within the next 50 years….