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

(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.