Evidence of life found in the lake deep under Antarctic Ice


Research equipment above Lake Mercer
Photo: SALSA (https://salsa-antarctica.org/photos/)

Scientists have found the bodies of tardigrads, algae, diatoms, and small crustaceans in a body of water buried over a kilometer of Antarctic ice, according to a news release from Nature.

The results come from the Antarctic Larks Scientific Access (Salsa) project, which was previously reported to be exploring the water, called Lake Mercer, with a 60-cm wide drill. The discovery highlights the first results of the project, which seeks to understand the strange, watery environments.

The carcasses originated from every 10,000 or 120,000 years ago during warming periods, after which ice smeared the lake again, by nature. It is unclear if the life, especially the ground-dwelling, microscopic tardigrade and a certain fungus, got down there. But it was thought they subsided to bacteria in the water.

This is the third time that scientists have explored an Antarctic subglacial lake, and the first time scientists have accessed Lake Mercer, having only explored it with radar before, according to the Nature Report. The researchers discovered the lake over a decade ago. It is 62 square miles (160 square kilometers) in area and around 500 miles (800 kilometers) from the South Pole.

Given the location of Marais's place under the ice, it is unlikely that it could have supported colonialism due to lack of sunlight, nature of reports. Perhaps enough sunlight could penetrate a lake covered by less ice to support some sort of microbial colony.

Salsa's project leader, John Prisku, noted that his team was cautious in conducting contamination sources, and brought in an outside expert to verify what they saw. The expert confirmed that the organisms look like they were dead for thousands of years and that they were similar to ones found in some anti-glacier-free regions. It's worth remaining skeptical, however; There is no advice-backed paper to just back up the claims.

But this is exciting for reasons other than just the strains of finding life in Antarctica. Astronomers have found evidence of ice-covered water on Jupiter's moon Europe and deep under the Martian polar ice caps. Finding Life In The World's Most Foreign Locations Make Us Hope It Can Live In Analogs On Other Planets.

The team will now try to date the materials, very DNA very much, and analyze other lakes samples of the SSSA mission to tell the whole story.

We'll keep you updated on how it evolves, and look forward to seeing these researches.

[via Nature]
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