Blood Falls, a Natural Time Capsule Containing a Unique Ecosystem
This five-story, blood-red “waterfall” pours ever so slowly out of the Taylor Glacier in Antarctica’s McMurdo Dry Valley. Geologists first discovered the frozen waterfall in 1911, and believed the red color came from algae. Its true nature turned out to be more spectacular.
Roughly two million years ago, a small body of water containing an ancient community of microbes was sealed beneath the surface of the Taylor Glacier. Trapped below a thick layer of ice, the microbes have remained isolated inside a natural time capsule, in a place with no light, oxygen, or heat.
The trapped lake has very high salinity and is rich in iron, which gives the seepage its red color. A fissure in the glacier allows the microbial subglacial lake to flow out, forming the falls without contaminating the ecosystem within.
More photos of Blood Falls can be seen on Atlas Obscura
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- Devil’s Flower Mantis - one of the largest types of praying mantis, they can measure up to 13 centimeters in length and have a range of coloring that allows them to mimic the Devil’s Flower, a type of orchid.
- Pipevine Swallowtail Caterpillar - before transforming into a beautiful fluorescent blue butterfly, its an armored, blood-red caterpillar with tinted visor shades for eyes and a quadruple row of blunt horns running across its body.
- Scorpionfly (Mecoptera) - neither scorpion or fly, what looks like a scorpion’s stinger on the insect is actually its genitals.
- Calleta Silkmoth Caterpillar - with a massive color range and dangerous looking barbs, this caterpillar is something most predators avoid.
- Giant Prickly Stick Insect (Extatosoma tiaratum) - as the largest known stick insect, it reaches lengths of 20 centimeters. It is covered with large thorny spikes which double as camouflage and defensive armor.
- Goliath Beetle - can grow more than 4 inches in length and weigh about 100 grams in their larval stage. It is alleged to be mostly vegetarian.
Monsters of the Deep Sea
Found at the depths of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, these deep sea ocean dwellers are both scary and deadly:
- Frill Shark - has over 300 rows of needle sharp teeth. Its name comes from its frilly-looking gills.
- Stonefish - perfectly camouflaged to look like a rock on the ocean floor, it is the most venomous fish in the world. It has 13 spines along its back that release the venom, which can kill humans in just a few hours.
- Sloane’s Viperfish - its teeth are a force to be reckoned with. The fang-like chompers are more than half the size of the viper’s head, allowing the fish to impale prey by swimming at the victim headfirst, mouth agape.
- Red Octopus - has eight arms with rows of glow-in-the-dark suckers trailing down each arm which are used to attract planktonic prey, like insects drawn to a light.
- Sea Pig - a type of sea cucumber found in very deep waters throughout Earth’s oceans. Sea pigs travel in large groups numbered in the hundreds, crawling along the sea floor.