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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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ScienceShot: A Tiny Bacterial World, Long Buried in Ice
26 November 2012 3:00 pm
What life lies in Antarctica's vast Lake Vostok is still a mystery, but a strange, long-isolated bacterial community inhabits the dark depths of another lake on the continent. A diverse group of microorganisms has been living isolated within the frigid brine of an ice-covered Antarctic lake for thousands of years, a new study suggests. Lake Vida, a 6.8-square-kilometer body of water, sits high in snow-free McMurdo Dry Valleys. Researchers drilling into the lake in 2005 and 2010 (field camp from 2010 shown above) discovered that the lake's pale yellow brine, which is a chilly -13°C, contains microbes representing at least eight distinct groups of bacteria, several of which haven't been previously recovered from high-salinity ecosystems. While some of the bacteria make their living by oxidizing sulfur or by consuming organic matter, others gain their energy by consuming dissolved hydrogen, genetic analyses suggest. The lake's 16-meter-thick cap of ice is so thick that light doesn't penetrate it, and carbon-dating of organic matter trapped 12 meters below the surface of the ice suggests that the brine has been isolated for more than 2800 years, the researchers report online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Because the lake, whose deepest waters are largely unfrozen due to their high salinity, sits atop permafrost hundreds of meters thick, it is almost entirely isolated from its surroundings. However, chemical reactions between the brine and lake-bottom sediments may provide a trickle of nutrients to the lake's microbes, which—thanks to the frigid temperatures and a limited food supply—reproduce, on average, only once every 120 years, the researchers estimate.
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