New Type Of Bacteria Reportedly Found In Buried Antarctic Lake - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

New Type Of Bacteria Reportedly Found In Buried Antarctic Lake

Posted: Updated:

YAHOO.COM - A new type of microbe has been found at a lake buried under Antarctica's thick ice, according to news reports. The find may unveil clues of the surrounding environment in the lake, according to scientists.

The bacteria, said to be only 86 percent similar to other types known to exist on Earth, was discovered in a water sample taken from Lake Vostok, which sits under more than 2 miles (3 kilometers) of Antarctic ice. The freshwater lake has likely been buried, unaltered, under the ice for the past million years.

Russian scientists reportedly obtained the water samples in 2012 when they drilled all the way down to the lake's surface. They ran the bacteria's composition through a global database and were not able to find anything similar to its type. Scientists couldn't even figure out the bacteria's descendents.

"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 Sergey Bulat, a geneticist at the Saint Petersburg Institute of Nuclear Physics, in a quote attributed in media reports to RIA Novosti news service.

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

Understanding the environment

While the bacteria still needs to be confirmed, its potential is already drawing attention from other Antarctic scientists.

Life forms are shaped by the environment they live in, and often shape that environment in return. Finding out more about bacteria in Lake Vostok, therefore, will help researchers picture what living in the lake is like for these tiny microorganisms.

"The study of looking at the organisms and their environment is really the study of ecology," said Alison Murray, an associate research professor at the Desert Research Institute (an environmental research group based in Nevada) who also does Antarctic research herself.

"By learning more about the life forms that live in Vostok, that will probably teach us a bit about the lake itself," Murray told OurAmazingPlanet.

Murray, who is familiar with the Russian researchers' work, said the group is a "very careful team of scientists" who would have put the bacteria through several validity tests before releasing the news.

Understanding bacterial life on Earth is also considered a possible research direction for finding life on other planets, including Mars.

'If this is real, it is very exciting'

The 86 percent similarity figure, to Murray, is a plausible indicator that this could be a new type of bacteria. Since all Earthly life is related to each other in some way, anything below about 80 percent would draw concern, Murray added.

At least one other scientist, however, expressed caution about the finding, saying that more information is needed before drawing conclusions.

"If this is real, it is very exciting," Peter Doran, a microbiologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, wrote in an e-mail to OurAmazingPlanet. He is a frequent visitor to the Arctic and Antarctica for his research.

"I would caution, though, that this type of 'press release' science is a little dangerous. It really needs to go through the rigor of peer review by other experts in the field before I'll jump on board," he said. "Having others looking at their methods and data will provide support for their conclusions."

Russian scientists successfully dug through to the buried lake again in January this year, retrieving more samples for later analysis.

Meanwhile, a British team had to call off their quest in December to dig to Lake Ellsworth, another Antarctic subglacial lake, after they encountered technical difficulties.

HD DOPPLER 6i
/
  • National NewsMore>>

  • Mad Minute stories from Thursday, July 20th

    Mad Minute stories from Thursday, July 20th

    Friday, July 21 2017 2:00 AM EDT2017-07-21 06:00:13 GMT
    Mad Minute for 12/30/16Mad Minute for 12/30/16

    Here are the extended versions of the KHQ Local News 11 at 11 Mad Minute stories from Thursday, July 20th.

    More >>

    Here are the extended versions of the KHQ Local News 11 at 11 Mad Minute stories from Thursday, July 20th.

    More >>
  • NOAA locates wreckage of crab fishing vessel off St. George Island, Alaska

    NOAA locates wreckage of crab fishing vessel off St. George Island, Alaska

    Friday, July 21 2017 12:11 AM EDT2017-07-21 04:11:45 GMT
    (NOAA)(NOAA)

    ALASKA - Two NOAA ships, en route to scientific missions in Alaskan waters, helped locate the missing fishing vessel Destination at the request of the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation. The Destination and its six crew members were lost February 11, 2017, while fishing for snow crab northwest of St. George, Alaska. NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson, a fisheries survey vessel, conducted the first survey from April 30 through May 1. The 

    More >>

    ALASKA - Two NOAA ships, en route to scientific missions in Alaskan waters, helped locate the missing fishing vessel Destination at the request of the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation. The Destination and its six crew members were lost February 11, 2017, while fishing for snow crab northwest of St. George, Alaska. NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson, a fisheries survey vessel, conducted the first survey from April 30 through May 1. The 

    More >>
  • Alexa, turn up my Kenmore AC; Sears cuts a deal with Amazon

    Alexa, turn up my Kenmore AC; Sears cuts a deal with Amazon

    Thursday, July 20 2017 6:16 PM EDT2017-07-20 22:16:28 GMT
    (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

    HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. (AP) - Sears will begin selling its appliances on Amazon.com, including smart appliances that can be synced with Amazon's voice assistant, Alexa. The announcement Thursday sent shares of Sears soaring almost 11 percent. The tie-up with the internet behemoth could give shares of the storied retailer one of its biggest one-day percentage gains ever. Sears, which also owns Kmart, said that its Kenmore Smart appliances will be fully integrated with Amazon's Alexa,

    More >>

    HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. (AP) - Sears will begin selling its appliances on Amazon.com, including smart appliances that can be synced with Amazon's voice assistant, Alexa. The announcement Thursday sent shares of Sears soaring almost 11 percent. The tie-up with the internet behemoth could give shares of the storied retailer one of its biggest one-day percentage gains ever. Sears, which also owns Kmart, said that its Kenmore Smart appliances will be fully integrated with Amazon's Alexa,

    More >>