Living Bacteria Found Beneath Antarctic Ice

Discovery suggests life could exist elsewhere

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 7, 2013 2:33 PM CST

(Newser) – Scientists drilled through a half-mile of ice into an Antarctic lake and found what is believed to be a first: live bacteria, reports the New York Times. The discovery is intriguing because if the cells can survive there, they could theoretically survive on a frozen planet somewhere. More research is under way to find out one crucial detail: Where is the bacteria getting its food?

“If it’s just consuming organics carried in from elsewhere"—a melting glacier, for example, "it is of much less interest," explains a NASA scientist. But if the cells are feeding off material that comes from a "local energy source," such as minerals in the continent's rock, that's a different story. Extraterrestrial life would likely have to do the same.

Antarctic sunlight illuminates the surface of sea ice in this file photo.
Antarctic sunlight illuminates the surface of sea ice in this file photo.   (AP Photo/NSIDC, University of Colorado)
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