A sea creature that has survived 30 ice ages and is so rare it was believed to be extinct could help scientists understand the future of our planet.
The animal, which looks like an insect, was first discovered in Antarctica in the 1960s, but it went unseen for decades.
It became known as the “ghost collembolan” due to its elusive nature, a moniker given to it by scientists who compare it to Casper the friendly ghost.
Byron Adams, a professor at Brigham Young University in Utah, USA, said explorers thought it didn’t exist until it was found on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.
Mr Adams said: “We called it the ghost collembola because it’s white like Casper the ghost.
“But also because, after searching for it all up and down the Transantarctic Mountains and not finding it anywhere, we started wondering if it really existed.
“We thought that like most other Antarctic soil animals it would have a much wider geographical range than it does.
“So, as we would go to new locations, we would look for it where we expected to find it, but despite looking fairly exhaustively, it never turned up.”
Now, the mysterious creature has been spotted for the first time in more than half a century.
Scientists believe studying it could reveal the future impact of rising sea levels on our planet.
This is because the creature has been on the frozen continent for 18 million years, and could show how the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) has retreated and advanced over time.
Mr Adams said: “It is probably the single most important thing we need to know in order to predict how much, and how fast, sea levels will rise as a result of global warming
“Our work shows that the waxing and waning of the WAIS can leave an imprint on the genetic makeup of the animals that survived these episodes.
“Thus, the evolutionary history of these animals can provide an independent estimate as to how this ice sheet has responded in the past, and how it may respond in the future, to a warmer Earth.”