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Scientists find life in ice-capped Antarctica lake

Bacteria thrive without external energy input

Search for new life in isolated Antarctic environments pays off.

Research field camp on Lake Vida, located in Victoria Valley, the northern most of the McMurdo Dry Valleys. Photo courtesy Desert Research Institute, Alison Murray.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — An ongoing search for isolated life forms in Antartica is yielding results and shedding new light how organisms on Earth can survive in hostile conditions, according to researchers with the University of Illinois at Chicago and Nevada’s Desert Research Institute.

The scientists drilled out cores of ice covering a briny Antarctic lake, finding abundant and diverse metabolically active bacteria in an environment that has been isolated from the surface environment — and external sources of energy — for at least 2,800 years, according to two of the report’s authors, Peter Doran and Fabien Kenig.

Lake Vida, the largest of several unique lakes found in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, contains no oxygen, is mostly frozen and possesses the highest nitrous oxide levels of any natural water body on Earth. A briny liquid that is approximately six times saltier than seawater percolates throughout the icy environment that has an average temperature of minus 13.5 degrees centigrade (or 8 degrees Fahrenheit). Continue reading

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