Antarctic microbes can survive for millennia

Living microbes found buried for tens of thousands of years

Steve Connor
Thursday 21 August 2014 08:59
Comments

An American research team has found the most definitive evidence yet that life is able to survive for millennia beneath polar ice sheets.

The Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling (Wissard) project discovered living microbes in an Antarctic lake that has been buried beneath hundreds of metres of solid ice for tens of thousands of years.

Their study, published in the journal Nature, suggests that primitive microbes, belonging to a group called the Archaea, are able to survive in isolated and buried ecosystems where water remains unfrozen, despite being at sub-zero temperatures, due to it being highly pressurised.

“We were able to prove unequivocally that Antarctica is not a dead continent,” said Professor John Priscu of Montana State University, chief scientist on the Wissard project.

The team, which drilled into Lake Whillans, 800m below the West Antarctic ice sheet, have stolen a march on British and Russian colleagues by being the first to retrieve microbes from such an environment without any contamination.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in