Unidentified Life Form Found in Antarctic Lake

Isolated for millions of years, bacteria could hold clues about life beyond Earth

By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 8, 2013 9:56 AM CST

(Newser) – It looks like drilling through 2.3 miles of ice may have paid off: The Russian scientists who did just that last year at Antarctica's Lake Vostok say the samples they recovered contain an "unclassified and unidentified" life form, reports the BBC.The bacteria's DNA measured less than 86% similar to that of previously existing life forms—which the team's leader explains is "basically zero" when it comes to DNA. "A level of 90% usually means that the organism is unknown."

"If this had been found on Mars everyone would have undoubtedly said there is life on Mars," continued the scientist, who says fresh samples will be retrieved from the subglacial lake in May. "But this is bacteria from Earth." Lake Vostok is so oxygen-rich—about 50 times more so than freshwater lakes—that any microbes living in it must have evolved special adaptations to survive there, notes the Daily Galaxy.

Russian scientists who dug to Lake Vostok, Antarctica, beneath 2 miles of glacier, say they have found new species of bacteria.
Russian scientists who dug to Lake Vostok, Antarctica, beneath 2 miles of glacier, say they have found new species of bacteria.   (Associated Press)
A view of the Antarctic. Vostok Lake, despite being buried 2.3 miles beneath glacier ice and isolated for millions of years, reportedly is home to previously unknown bacteria species.
A view of the Antarctic. Vostok Lake, despite being buried 2.3 miles beneath glacier ice and isolated for millions of years, reportedly is home to previously unknown bacteria species.   (©)
This Jan. 9, 2007 photo provided by the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute of St. Petersburg shows the Russian drilling machine 5-G in Antarctica.
This Jan. 9, 2007 photo provided by the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute of St. Petersburg shows the Russian drilling machine 5-G in Antarctica.   (AP Photo/Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute Press Service, Pavel Teterev)
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