At Home in the Ice
Imagine living in glacier ice and thriving on it! Yet such ice is the cozy home of a little-known creature called the ice worm. Belonging to the family of segmented worms, this ice-dwelling creature looks like a miniature earthworm, being only 1 to 3 cm (0.4 to one inch) long. The glacial home of the ice worm seems to be only the coastal glaciers of western North America. How do ice worms live?
During the day, Mr. Ice Worm retires deep within his icy home, sometimes as deep as 2 m (6-1/2 ft.), moving about the solid glacial ice with remarkable ease. At dusk, this creature of the cold leaves the interior of his icy home and comes to the surface, looking for some delightful tidbits to feed on, perhaps snow algae, pollen grains and even snow fleas. But the ice worm itself may be detected and eaten up by hungry birds that land on glaciers, such as snow buntings and palmated plovers. As for the coldness of ice, it does not seem to bother the ice worm, but heat is deadly; in fact, an ice worm disintegrates at 20 degrees C (68 degrees F.). A person who treads a coastal glacier in western North America may think he is standing only on lifeless ice, but it may not be entirely lifeless. At least for the ice worm it is a cozy home.