Friday, September 20, 2013

126.5 - And Another Thing: life forms found under Antarctic lake

And Another Thing: life forms found under Antarctic lake

Here's a third cool thing, literally this time. Scientists have discovered signs of life in mud samples that were extracted from the bottom of a subglacial lake in Antarctica.

They uncovered microbes that date back nearly 100,000 years - and about 23% of the organisms they found were "unidentified," organisms previously unknown to science.

The scientists drilled through an ice sheet covering Lake Hodgson on the Antarctic peninsula. The lake's ice is currently about 10-13 feet thick, but 100,000 years ago, during the last Ice Age, it was more than 1300 feet thick. The researchers drilled through the ice and another 305 down to actually drill into the bottom of the lake and take up these sediments.

They said the upper few centimeters, which would be the most recent sediment, contained recent organisms. But as they continued to drill, they found fossilized fragments of DNA belonging to numerous microbes which seem to have adapted to the extreme conditions of living in an Antarctic lake. These included several types of bacterial species known to science, but, again, they said 23% of them are unknown.

(I kept flashing on the X-Files stories about microbes in Antarctica, but that's a whole different story.)

The studies are going to continue and the other important thing about this is that studying how things have survived in extreme environments here on Earth can also tell us more about how life might exist or develop on other planets.


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