Story 2014-09-16 2SET Confirmed: Microbial life found half mile below Antarctic ice sheet

Confirmed: Microbial life found half mile below Antarctic ice sheet

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in science on (#2SET)
Wednesday, Nature (a scientific journal focused on the natural science) reported something either astonishing or expected, depending on your own personal mood: close to 4,000 species of microbes have been discovered growing in the cold, dark environment of Subglacial Lake Whillans in western Antarctica. Each quarter teaspoon of the tea-colored lake water brought to the surface had about 130,000 cells in it.

In the lightless environment of Subglacial Lake Whillans, the microbes rely on minerals from the bedrock and sediments. The pressure of the slowly moving ice above the lake grinds the underlying rock into a powder, liberating the minerals in the rock into the water, and making them accessible to the microorganisms living there. The microbes act on those iron, ammonium and sulphide compounds to create energy.

From the LA Times:
Scientists have discovered a diverse ecosystem of single-celled organisms that have managed to survive without ever seeing the light of the sun. The discovery, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature is not so much a surprise as a triumph of science and engineering. The research team spent 10 years and more than $10 million to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that life did indeed exist in sub-glacial lakes near the South Pole.
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