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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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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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