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US team discover life in Antarctic lake

Posted on Sunday, 3 February, 2013 | Comment icon 16 comments | News tip by: Insanity

Image credit: Calee Allen / NOAA

A surprising amount of living cells have been retrieved from 800m below the freezing surface.

The samples retrieved from Lake Whillans are the first in Western Antarctica to show evidence of life. The microbes are believed to be actively using oxygen and have been sealed below the ice for more than 100,000 years. In recent years several teams have worked towards retrieving samples from subglacial lakes however success until now has proved elusive.

One of the biggest challenges the team faced was ensuring that the samples weren't contaminated by microbes from the surface but despite this researchers are confident that what they've found did come from the depths of Lake Whillans. "This is a big deal - and exciting," said glaciologist Martin Siegert. "The first clean access to a subglacial lake system."

"Cells containing DNA have emerged as the first evidence of life in a subglacial lake in West Antarctica."

  View: Full article |  Source: Science News

  Discuss: View comments (16)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #7 Posted by pallidin on 4 February, 2013, 1:12
Good point. Hope they're careful, just in case.
Comment icon #8 Posted by pallidin on 4 February, 2013, 1:16
Welcome aboard,
Comment icon #9 Posted by AsteroidX on 4 February, 2013, 1:18
Id be more worried about catching a cold from antarctic bacteria
Comment icon #10 Posted by Nasty Gash on 4 February, 2013, 2:08
Please explain your reasoning for both of these statements. I make these observations... 1. Ebola and Marburg viri passed from animals to humans after developing in animals segregated from humans when humans encroached on the animals' territories which previously where free of humans. Humans have had no opportunity to develop immunity to these organisms. 2. The ancestors of the organisms found in Lake Williams were trapped in the lake after the lake had been closed off from the rest of the Earth 100,000 years or so ago. Thus the organisms there now did not develop independently of t... [More]
Comment icon #11 Posted by lightly on 4 February, 2013, 3:46
cool. i would be more surprised if no life was found in the lake.
Comment icon #12 Posted by 4MinuteNile on 4 February, 2013, 4:41
If they release Nessie we are all doomed.
Comment icon #13 Posted by Abramelin on 4 February, 2013, 4:48
We've survived these: Deep in the mine, within a pocket of salt water trapped in a 250 million-year-old salt crystal, two biologists and a geologist discovered the 2-9-3 virgibacillus bacteria. This would be unremarkable save for the fact that this bacteria was 100 million years older than the dinosaurs... and it was still alive.
Comment icon #14 Posted by Nasty Gash on 4 February, 2013, 13:36
A "cold" is not caused by bacteria but by viruses. The "flu" also.
Comment icon #15 Posted by paperdyer on 5 February, 2013, 14:09
I agree with Nasty Gash. These microbes could be potentially dangerous. @Abramelin - Just because our ancestors may have developed an immunity to a disease doesn't mean the immunity is still passed on to us. That's what makes bio-warfare so dangerous. All you need to do is find a long-gone "bug" cultivate it and release it. As we haven't been exposed to it recently, we probably wouldn't have an immunity to it bringing on an epidemic.
Comment icon #16 Posted by Abramelin on 5 February, 2013, 15:24
But the salt bacteria are 250 millions of years old, and I read about it when I was still in highschool, some 40 years ago. These bacteria were already there long before the dinosaurs, and certainly long before anything resembling us. So if these bacteria would have been dangerous for us, we would have known it by now.

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