Life found 12,000 feet under polar ice

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SCIENTISTS HAVE found microbes buried under nearly 12,000 feet of Antarctic ice in a discovery that shows there are virtually no limits to where organisms can live.

The bacteria were retrieved from a core of ice taken fromabove Lake Vostok, the largest subglacial body of fresh water in the world. John Priscu, a biologist at Montana State University, who led the research team, said the ice core was one of the deepest explored for life.

The discovery, detailed in the journal Science, raises the prospect that it may be feasible to search for extraterrestrial lifeforms in ice sheets from the ocean on Europa, one of Jupiter's moons.

Dr Priscu said: "From a biologist's perspective, this is the Holy Grail of lake biology. Our findings indicate that the microbial world has few limits on our planet."

The bacteria might haveblown to Antarctica on dust from the Patagonian desert of South America or have evolved from microbes in Lake Vostok.