Researchers looking for microbial DNA in snow samples from Northern Europe and North America found a hidden empire of bacteria, fungi and algae in seemingly lifeless snow. "I was just blown away by the biodiversity," co-author Shawn Brown, a professor of biology at the University of Memphis, told New Scientist.
Freshly fallen snow can teem with tiny creatures with some microbes even playing key roles in the formation of snowflakes long before they fall.
Although life generally depends on liquid water, a variety of organisms have evolved impressive techniques for surviving in snow and ice. They may wait for seasonal thaws, slow their metabolisms, produce antifreeze proteins or encourage the snow around them to melt. A few have been known to science for a long time, but many have only been discovered in recent years.