First Signs of Life Discovered in Antarctica’s Lake Whillans
Following success in reaching water in the subglacial Lake Whillans, American scientists announced on Monday that samples taken from the lake indicated signs of life.
After drilling a borehole through 2,600 feet of ice, American researchers were able to extract a baseball-bat sized vessel full of lake water. The sample was taken to the on-site lab, where it underwent a number of tests. One test, in which DNA-sensitive dye was applied, revealed cells when viewed through a microscope.
Scientists caution that these are just preliminary results and that the dye could merely be exposing long-dead cells, but are hopeful that tests will continue to show signs of life. Experts theorize that subglacial organisms could survive off pyrite minerals from rocks and oxygen released from melting ice.
A team of Russian scientists, who also successfully reached water in Antarctica’s Lake Vostok, reported finding two types of bacteria in the lake samples. Both types, however, are found in kerosene, indicating that the bacteria comes from drilling fluid rather than the lake itself.
Read more in the Discover Magazine article.