Scientists Found Bacteria in Lake Under Half a Mile of Antarctic Ice


Photo: Alberto Behar/JPL/ASU

Under a half-mile of Antarctic ice, there's a cold and dark lake sealed off from the rest of the world for hundreds of years - and when scientists drilled through, they found bacteria living happily there:

“It transforms the way we view the Antarctic continent,” said John C. Priscu of Montana State University, a leader of the scientific expedition. [...]

Dr. Priscu said that every precaution had been taken to prevent contamination of the lake with bacteria from the surface or the overlying ice. In addition, he said, the concentrations of life were higher in the lake than in the borehole, and there were signs of life in the lake bottom’s sediment, which would be sealed off from contamination.

Much more study, including DNA analysis, is needed to determine what kinds of bacteria have been found and how they live, Dr. Priscu said. There is no sunlight, so the bacteria must depend on organic material that has drifted into the lake from other sources — for instance, decaying microbes from melting glaciers — or on minerals in the rock of the Antarctic continent.

James Gorman of the New York Times explains: Link


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