Scientists have discovered thriving bacteria living in Lake Vida in East Antarctica, a lake that is seven times as salty as the sea, pitch black, and 13 degrees below freezing. Most interestingly, it has been buried for over 2800 years under 20 meters of ice.
The scientists believe that the bacteria, shut off from sunlight for 1000’s of years, evolved to be able to survive by metabolising hydrogen and oxides of nitrogen that Vida’s salty, oxygen-free water has been found to contain.
The team hopes this will reveal information about potential life living under and within ice on other planets and moons.
Peter Doran of the University of Illinois, Chicago explains that:
Lake Vida is a model of what happens when you try to freeze a lake solid, and this is the same fate that any lakes on Mars would have gone through as the planet turned colder from a watery past. Any Martian water bodies that did form would have gone through this Vida stage before freezing solid, entombing the evidence of the past ecosystem.
The team’s next expedition, which started on November 25th, will be drilling into Lake Ellsworth, also situated in Antarctica. It is 3 km deep. If they do find living bacteria in Ellsworth too, I think it’s safe to begin preparing for the Martian greeting ceremony.
New Scientist: Lake life survives in total isolation for 3000 years