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'Uninhabitable' Antarctic subglacial lake shows sign of diverse life forms

Washington, Sept. 11 : Scientists have found proof of diverse life forms, dating back nearly a hundred thousand years, in an Antarctic subglacial lake's sediments.


Scientists from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), and the Universities of Northumbria and Edinburgh targeted Lake Hodgson on the Antarctic Peninsula which was covered by more than 400 m of ice at the end of the last Ice Age, but is now considered to be an emerging subglacial lake, with a thin covering of just 3-4 metres of ice.

Drilling through the ice they used clean coring techniques to delve into the sediments at the bottom of the lake which is 93 metres deep and approximately 1.5 km long by 1.5 km wide.

The top few centimetres of the core contained current and recent organisms which inhabit the lake but once the core reached 3.2 m deep the microbes found most likely date back nearly 100,000 years.

Lead author David Pearce, who was at BAS and is now at the University of Northumbria, said that the fact that 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.

Some of the life discovered was in the form of Fossil DNA showing that many different types of bacteria live there, including a range of extremophiles which are species adapted to the most extreme environments.

One DNA sequence was related to the most ancient organisms known on Earth and parts of the DNA in twenty three percent has not been previously described.

Many of the species are likely to be new to science making clean exploration of the remote lakes isolated under the deeper parts of the ice sheet even more pressing.

--ANI (Posted on 12-09-2013)

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