Monday, February 4, 2013

Microbes from Below the Antarctic Ice

For the first time, life has been discovered in a subglacial lake, deep under the ice in Antarctica. A research team from the United States made a clean drill to the subglacial lake by the name of Lake Whillans, around 800 meters below the ice surface, and there they found cells containing DNA.

Antarctica's known subglacial lake system
Antarctica's known subglacial lake system
It appears that the microbes discovered have been hiding under the ice for over 100,000 years. The U.S. team retrieved three 10-liter samples of water from the lakes -- containing microbes in a density of 10,000 per milliliter -- and tested the samples in a lab. The tests performed showed that the microbes actively used oxygen.

This discovery has ended the hunt for life in the lakes below Antarctica, started in 1996. The U.S. team’s drilling endeavor marks “the first clean access to a subglacial lake system.”[1] The fact that the drilling was a "clean access" severely limits the chances that the microbes might have arrived by contamination.

Another subglacial lake, Lake Vostok, was the subject of a Russian team's research last year, but the water has yielded no signs of life thusfar.

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Go ahead, blow our minds.