Microbial life found in buried Antarctic lake

Last Updated: Saturday, March 9, 2013 - 00:37

London: Scientists claim to have discovered a new type of bacterial life in waters from a mysterious buried Antarctic lake.

Russian researchers have been studying samples brought up from Vostok - the largest sub-glacial lake in Antarctica, which was drilled last year through almost 4km of ice to reach the lake and retrieve samples.

The finding has raised the possibility that such isolated bodies of water might host microbial life forms new to science, `BBC News` reported.

"After putting aside all possible elements of contamination, DNA was found that did not coincide with any of the well-known types in the global database," said Sergei Bulat, of the genetics laboratory at the St Petersburg Institute of Nuclear Physics.

"We are calling this life form unclassified and unidentified," he said.

Close attention was focused on one particular form of bacteria whose DNA was less than 86 per cent similar to previously existing forms, Bulat added.

A level of 90 per cent usually means that the organism is unknown," he said.

The drilling project took years to plan and implement. The lake`s location in the heart of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet makes it one of the most inhospitable environments on the planet.

It is the place where thermometers recorded the lowest ever temperature on Earth - minus 89C on 21 July 1983.

Vostok Station was set up by the Russians in 1956, and their seismic soundings soon suggested there was an area of liquid underneath all the ice.

However, it was only in the 1990s that British scientists, with the help of radar, were able to determine the full extent of the sub-glacial feature.

US researchers recently broke through into another Antarctic lake - Whillans. They have also reported the discovery of microbial life in the lake waters.

PTI



First Published: Friday, March 8, 2013 - 15:54

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