Megan Gannon, News Editor, LiveScience.com
Researchers have found signs of life in mud pulled from the bottom of an ice-covered lake in Antarctica.
Studying microbes in such extreme environments could help scientists understand how life thrives in the harshest places on Earth and potentially other planets.
Scientists with the British Antarctic Survey and other institutions pulled sediment samples from the bottom of Lake Hodgson, which is on the Antarctic Peninsula and 305 feet (93 meters) deep.
Today the lake has a thin covering of just 10 to 13 feet (3 to 4 m) of ice, but thousands of years ago, it was buried under more than 1,600 feet (500 m) of ice. The sediments the scientists studied were deposited when the lake was sealed under the ice.
"It's the first time any subglacial lake sediment has been studied," study author David Pearce, who is now at the University of Northumbria, told LiveScience. And in that sediment sample, researchers found a time capsule of life, dating back nearly a hundred thousand years.
In the journal Diversity, Pearce and colleagues reported that they grew 20 cultures of microbes found in the uppermost layer of the sediment core, proving that there are viable extremophiles, or life that thrives in extreme environments, currently living in Lake Hodgson. They also found fossilized fragments of DNA from many different types of microbes that seem to have adapted to the extremes over the years.
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