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Thousands of species found in lake under Antarctic ice

Thousands Of Species Found In Lake Under Antarctic Ice

A half-mile of ice isn't enough to suffocate life. A team of scientists who drilled into one of Antarctica's subglacial lakes last year says the lake is pretty well-packed with living things.

The U.S.-based team used a sterile hot water drill to reach and collect samples from Lake Whillans, one of Antarctica's roughly 400 lakes, which are kept liquid by pressure, friction and the planet's heat.

Shortly afterward, they announced they'd found life in the lake water, and after a year and a half of study, they've confirmed nearly 4,000 species, many of them completely new.

Life existing at all in a lake that hasn't gotten any sunlight in more than 100,000 years is definitely impressive. As you can probably guess, energy is scarce beneath the ice.

But the single-celled organisms that live there have a creative trick: they eat the rock to survive, having found ways to use minerals like iron and ammonium for energy, similar to how microbes on the bottom of the deepest oceans get by.

Science writers are calling this a first: "the first sample ever retrieved directly from a subglacial lake", "the first organisms ever retrieved from a subglacial Antarctic lake." But that depends on who you ask.

A Russian team collected samples from Lake Vostok shortly before the U.S. team got to Lake Whillans. They published findings of life under the ice a year ago, but many scientists said their drilling technique risked contamination.

Now it's definitive: life can survive under Antarctica's ice sheets, far away from sunlight. And that has some big implications.

Saturn's moon Enceladus and Jupiter's moon Europa are both potential candidates for alien life. The findings in Antarctica are more evidence that life could thrive under the moons' ice crusts.

The team hopes to return to Lake Whillans this winter to take more samples and see if they can find more species, including, perhaps, some small animals.

This video contains images from NASA.

Click through for photos of Anarctica

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Beverly Doyle August 21 2014 at 12:11 AM

I can understand ignorance and realize it can be rectified. However, what is shown on many comments here is willful ignorance, a refusal to admit that there might be something new worth knowing about. That is not simply ignorance, that is stupidity, and it has the potential to do serious harm to our economy. We need to keep up with science and technology or the rest of the world will pass us by. Please don't contribute to the demise of our country by behaving like turtles who pull their heads into their shells every time something scary comes along. What are you so afraind of???

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13 replies
unihawker1 August 20 2014 at 11:55 PM

I have always believed that there must be life on other planets and with this news it makes it even more probable.
The morons commenting unfortunately suffer from anile rectitus.

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3 replies
navy85736usnret August 21 2014 at 12:16 AM

I suspect Our republinuts/religinuts are going to go bonkers because this does not fit in with their mythological biblical theory!

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24 replies
Steve Rehl August 21 2014 at 12:47 AM

Thankfully we have science and educated people in this world... sadly they have to share the same air with the dullards and dimwits who post their feeble attempts at thought far too often.

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1 reply
Susan Steve Rehl August 21 2014 at 9:46 AM

Indeed. They post their feeble thoughts using poor sentence structure and poor grammar.

It's totally embarrassing to be an American sometime, when you realize that roughly 45% of the people in this country live in hate and ignorance. And the worst part? They're PROUD of it.

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1 reply
Beverly Doyle Susan August 21 2014 at 12:35 PM

I agree - it sometimes feels like there are a lot of silverbacks beating their chests to show how wonderful they are. LOL It would be funnier if it weren't so sad.

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tpart August 20 2014 at 11:21 PM

That is amazing Life is one tough SOB

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1 reply
calderasf tpart August 21 2014 at 3:22 PM

Yes it is it seems that life is unstoppable given a few billions years to work on it we are NOT alone our problem is pure physics we all are way too far apart to communicate.

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bwess8 August 21 2014 at 1:04 AM

The U.S will never go to Mars or any other planet if they keep voting in Republicans . War is what they want and lots of it , with 0 tax's for the rich.

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11 replies
jaguarathecat August 21 2014 at 12:48 AM

Wow, I thought this article was going to be about dead species.

Eating rock -- how fantastic is life on earth!

I am a rock hound. I love it...............

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2 replies
rgkarasiewicz jaguarathecat August 21 2014 at 1:06 AM

I wouldn't lend stock to any of the rubbish coming out of that bunch as they're totally thick with the bs.

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3 replies
calderasf jaguarathecat August 21 2014 at 3:24 PM

You mean highly educate scientists who love doing what they do with such passion to continue to make more and more discoveries of who we are, where we are, and how we got here.

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Bill August 21 2014 at 11:49 AM

Life doesn't just thrive in favorable conditions, it thrives despite seemingly un-favorable conditions. To paraphrase Murphy's Law: "If life can exist, it will exist".

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ringmasterigs August 21 2014 at 1:32 AM

And if there is a micro-organism that is deadly to humans and can spread we know who to blame for digging it up.!!!!!!!

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6 replies
jttw August 21 2014 at 9:45 AM

WAIT.. Al gore said " there is no Ice in the artic.. and now you find new species..and gonna screw that up right?
Leave well enough alone you idiots!

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5 replies
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