New Type Of Bacteria Reportedly Found In Buried Antarctic Lake - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

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.

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • PHOTOS: Wildfires in Central Washington

    PHOTOS: Wildfires in Central Washington

    Tuesday, August 19 2014 1:39 PM EDT2014-08-19 17:39:31 GMT
    KHQ.COM - It has been an intense year for wildfires all over the northwest. The photos in this slideshow were taken 8/7 - 8/11 by KHQ photographer Reed Schmitt. Most of the photos are from the Methow Valley area around Winthrop. A few shots are from the North Cascades Smokejumper Base and also from a horseback ride at Sun Mountain near Patterson Lake. The final shot is of Grand Coulee Dam almost completely obscured by smoke.>>
    KHQ.COM - It has been an intense year for wildfires all over the northwest. The photos in this slideshow were taken 8/7 - 8/11 by KHQ photographer Reed Schmitt. Most of the photos are from the Methow Valley area around Winthrop. A few shots are from the North Cascades Smokejumper Base and also from a horseback ride at Sun Mountain near Patterson Lake. The final shot is of Grand Coulee Dam almost completely obscured by smoke.>>
  • CAUGHT ON TAPE: Woman accused of stealing from community center

    CAUGHT ON TAPE: Woman accused of stealing from community center

    Tuesday, August 19 2014 6:09 PM EDT2014-08-19 22:09:34 GMT
    SPOKANE, Wash. - Surveillance footage appears to show a woman in Spokane stealing a car and a purse from a community center on Spokane's South Hill. Spokane Police are investigating the crime that happened last Thursday at the East Central Community Center, located just south of Interstate 90. The victim, Madeline Antcliff, is a junior at Gonzaga Prep High School.>>

    SPOKANE, Wash. - Surveillance footage appears to show a woman in Spokane stealing a car and a purse from a community center on Spokane's South Hill. Spokane Police are investigating the crime that happened last Thursday at the East Central Community Center, located just south of Interstate 90. The victim, Madeline Antcliff, is a junior at Gonzaga Prep High School. She has volunteered at the community center for the last two months.

    >>
  • Veteran rock climber killed in fall in Yosemite after marriage proposal

    Veteran rock climber killed in fall in Yosemite after marriage proposal

    Tuesday, August 19 2014 9:46 AM EDT2014-08-19 13:46:15 GMT
    SEBASTOPOL, Calif. (AP) - Authorities say a veteran rock climber died in a fall while climbing alone in Yosemite National Park - just hours after proposing to his girlfriend during an earlier climb. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat says Brad Parker's girlfriend, Jainee Dial, had accepted his marriage proposal after the pair completed a climb of Cathedral Peak Saturday.>>
    SEBASTOPOL, Calif. (AP) - Authorities say a veteran rock climber died in a fall while climbing alone in Yosemite National Park - just hours after proposing to his girlfriend during an earlier climb. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat says Brad Parker's girlfriend, Jainee Dial, had accepted his marriage proposal after the pair completed a climb of Cathedral Peak Saturday.
    >>
  • National NewsMore>>

  • Wife: Robin Williams had early stages of Parkinson's Disease at time of death

    Wife: Robin Williams had early stages of Parkinson's Disease at time of death

    Thursday, August 14 2014 3:26 PM EDT2014-08-14 19:26:01 GMT
    SPOKANE, Wash. - Actor and comedian Robin Williams was sober but struggling with the early stages of Parkinson's Disease at the time of his death, according to his wife. Williams' wife released the following statement Thursday:>>
    SPOKANE, Wash. - Actor and comedian Robin Williams was sober but struggling with the early stages of Parkinson's Disease at the time of his death, according to his wife. Williams' wife released the following statement Thursday:>>
  • Passenger plane crashes in Iran

    Passenger plane crashes in Iran

    Sunday, August 10 2014 2:15 AM EDT2014-08-10 06:15:55 GMT
    TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - State television in Iran is reporting that a small passenger plane has crashed into a residential complex in the capital, Tehran. There was no immediate word on casualties from the crash Sunday.State TV reported that a Taban Air plane crashed while taking off from an airport west of Tehran. >>
    TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - State television in Iran is reporting that a small passenger plane has crashed into a residential complex in the capital, Tehran. There was no immediate word on casualties from the crash Sunday.State TV reported that a Taban Air plane crashed while taking off from an airport west of Tehran. >>
  • General is highest ranking Army officer killed in Iraq or Afghanistan

    General is highest ranking Army officer killed in Iraq or Afghanistan

    Tuesday, August 5 2014 5:00 PM EDT2014-08-05 21:00:13 GMT
    WASHINGTON (AP) - An American general has become the highest-ranking U.S. Army officer to be killed in the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. >>
    WASHINGTON (AP) - An American general has become the highest-ranking U.S. Army officer to be killed in the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. A Pentagon spokesman says the general was killed in an apparent insider attack today by a member of the Afghan security forces. The shooting wounded another 15 people, about half of them Americans.>>