What creatures live in the glacier?


cryoconite-pools, snow-algae

High up in the mountains you can find the ice glaciers, and although they are very cold, microorganisms can live even there. Microorganisms prefer to live around dirt-particles, because they love to eat dirt. 

The white snow and the glacier-ice throw back the warming sunlight but in the area where the dirt-particles are on the surface, the sunlight stays.

As a result, it gets warmer and the dirt melts a hole in the ice and the melted water forms a small lake. In this tiny lake (cryoconite) live bacteria, fungi, other microorganisms and tardigrades.  You can see them in the microscope.

1) Heart-shaped cryoconite / 2) Bacteria / Algae growing directly under lamps on ice in the Hintertux-glacier / 3) Alpine tardigrade (water bear)

Project description

Glacier-surfaces are populated by a variety of organisms that are perfectly adapted to cold and high UV radiation, but they also reduce the albedo of glaciers. The solar radiation forms cylindrical depressions (cryoconite holes) filled with meltwater and sediments, which are highly active habitats for bacteria, fungi, algae, viruses and multicellular organisms.

The genesis of a cryoconite hole is reproduced on an artificial glacier under heat lamps. The organisms (snow and ice algae, glacier-lichens and tardigrades) can be observed in the microscope.

Idea & Organization

Birgit Sattler (Institute of Ecology)