When I last wrote about Lake Vostok, Russian scientists had retrieved new water samples from the subglacial lake in Antarctica.
This lake, if you remember, has existed deep beneath the Antarctic ice, isolated for about 20 million years. And, at the very least, the lake’s water has been free of any contamination or disturbance from the surface for “tens of thousands of years.”
Well, word on the street is that scientists have actually found something in those samples.
“The samples obtained from the underground lake in May 2012 contained a bacteria which bore no resemblance to existing types, said Sergei Bulat of the genetics laboratory at the Saint Petersburg Institute of Nuclear Physics.”
– Russia finds ‘new bacteria’ in Antarctic lake, Phys.org
The water sample — an ice core, in fact — was retrieved from a depth of over 3,600 meters. Apparently, the scientists found bacteria in seven different samples taken from said ice core, bacteria that has no “genetic descendants” that they’re aware of.
No, don’t expect anything like bitey alien worms or renegade viruses here. I mean, it could happen, but…
There’s still a lot of work to be done, and this discovery is very new. The scientists will now analyze this “new bacteria” and hopefully reveal more information in the coming months. They also plan to retrieve new samples from the lake in May.
Remember: this is the kind of stuff that sets the groundwork for explorations of life on other planets, or moons like Europa or Enceladus. If life can exist in the conditions present at Lake Vostok, where else might we find it?
Apparently, the bacteria were “nothing but contaminants:”
“‘We found certain specimen, although not many. All of them were contaminants’ that were brought there by the lab during research, Vladimir Korolyov told the Interfax news agency.”
Bummer. It seems that, whenever a groundbreaking discovery is made (hello, FTL neutrinos), it’s best to wait a few days for the inevitable correction. Of course, some people are calling “Cover Up!,” but I’ll leave that to the conspiracy theorists…
Image credit: U.S. National Science Foundation