Thursday, January 19

living microbes found buried deep in ice

Microbes living buried under 3 kilometers of ice in Greenland are actively pumping out methane, a recent study found. This is good news for those hoping that microbes are alive—or, at least, in suspended animation—in ice sheets elsewhere.

A couple months ago, I wrote about plans to drill into Lake Vostok, a lake buried under East Antarctica's 4-kilometer ice sheet. Though a few studies have found bacteria in the ice just above the lake, some researchers doubt whether these are bacteria that had previously lived in the lake, and then got frozen onto the base of ice sheet. Instead, they might be contaminants from oils used in the drilling.

I always hoped that researchers would find life in Lake Vostok. (Isn't a blooming, near-frozen lake much more interesting than a lonely, dead lake?) This new study from Greenland buoys my hopes that Vostok will hold life—but I'm still worried that the Russian team drilling toward the lake will screw up and contaminate the lake.


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