Life Found Under Ice-Covered Antarctica Lake Surprises Scientists

By Josh Lieberman on September 10, 2013 5:39 PM EDT

antarctica
British Antarctic Survey scientists found evidence of life forms that lived 100,000 years ago. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

In the harsh depths of an ice-covered lake in Antarctica, researchers have found forms of life dating back almost 100,000 years, according to a paper published in the journal Diversity. Microbes like these, discovered in mud from Antarctica's Lake Hodgson, fascinate scientists who speculate that if bacteria can exist in the harshest reaches of Earth, it could also potentially withstand the inhospitable climates of places like Mars.

Like Us on Facebook

Mud samples from the bottom of the lake contained a number of organisms, including bacteria and extremophiles, microbial life that thrives in extreme conditions. Lake Hodgson, which was under about 1,300 feet of ice during the Ice Age, is now under only about 13 feet of ice , Lake Hodgson was chosen by scientists from the British Antarctic Survey because its melting ice has made it easier to draw samples from. The lake is on the Antarctic Peninsula, the northernmost part of Antarctica's mainland. 

After drilling into the lake, BAS scientists found that the mud at the bottom was richer than they imagined, representing "a time capsule storing the DNA of the microbes which have lived there throughout the millennia," according to a press release. Recent organisms inhabited the top few inches of the core drilled by BAS, but microbes lower down on the core likely date back almost 100,000 years. One DNA sequence found in the Antarctic mud is related to the most ancient organisms known on Earth.

"What was surprising was the high biomass and diversity we found," said David Pearce, lead author of the Diversity paper. "This is the first time microbes have been identified living in the sediments of a subglacial Antarctic lake and indicates that life can exist and potentially thrive in environments we would consider too extreme."

"The fact these organisms have survived in such a unique environment could mean they have developed in unique ways which could lead to exciting discoveries for us," Pearce added. "This is the early stage and we now need to do more work to further investigate these life forms."

In May, researchers in the Canadian Arctic discovered Planococcus halocryophilus OR1, a new bacterium, thriving in permafrost on Ellesmere Island, an area scientists thought too cold for life of any kind.  

READ MORE:

Northern Lights' Height Can Be Determined Using Just Two Digital Cameras, Say Researchers [VIDEO]

Dead Fish In China: 220,000 Pounds Of Poisoned Fish Surface In Fuhe River

'Rainbow Mountains' Of China: What Caused The Amazing Colors of the Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park? [VIDEO]

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

Join the Conversation

Sponsored From Around the Web

    ZergNet
Follow iScience Times
us on facebook RSS
 
us on google
 
Most Popular
INSIDE iScience Times
Do Dolphins Get High? BBC Cameras Catch Dolphins Chewing On Pufferfish Toxins
Do Dolphins Get High? BBC Cameras Catch Dolphins Chewing On Pufferfish Toxins
How Many Ways Can You Tie A Tie?
How Many Ways Can You Tie A Tie?
Ribbon Of Charged Particles At Solar System's Edge Acts Like A Wind Sock For Interstellar Magnetism
Ribbon Of Charged Particles At Solar System's Edge Acts Like A Wind Sock For Interstellar Magnetism
How to Turn Your Tap Water Faucet  Into a Coffee Spout [VIDEO]
How to Turn Your Tap Water Faucet Into a Coffee Spout [VIDEO]
Coolest Science Photos Of 2013: From Blobfish To Two-Headed Shark, Comet ISON To Mars Selfie
Coolest Science Photos Of 2013: From Blobfish To Two-Headed Shark, Comet ISON To Mars Selfie
This Is A Scientifically-Proven Rock-Paper-Scissors Winning Strategy (But If Your Opponent Uses It Too, It's A Draw)
This Is A Scientifically-Proven Rock-Paper-Scissors Winning Strategy (But If Your Opponent Uses It Too, It's A Draw)