High up on Mount Rainier in Washington, there’s a stunning view of the other white-capped peaks in the Cascade Range. But Scott Hotaling is looking down toward his feet, studying the snow-covered ground. "It’s happening," he says, gesturing across the Paradise Glacier. Small black flecks suddenly appear on the previously blank expanse of white. The glacier’s surface quickly transforms as more and more tiny black creatures emerge. The ice worms have returned, snaking in between ice crystals and shimmering in the sun. These thread-like worms, each only about an inch long, wiggle up en masse in the summertime, late in the afternoon, to do — what? Scientists don’t know. It’s just one of many mysteries about these worms , which have barely been studied even though they’re the most abundant critter living up there in the snow and ice. Billions and billions of inch-long black creatures "There are so many ," says Hotaling, a researcher at Washington State University. An estimated 5 billion ice worms can live in a single glacier. "From where we’re standing right now, I can see, five, six, 10 glaciers," he says. "And if every one hosts that density of ice worms? That is just […]

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