Basics of Biology

Biology and Life

Where was life recently found in an unlikely place on Earth?

Most people don’t think of “life” thousands of feet under the icy continent of Antarctica. But in 2011, living bacteria were found in core samples from Antarctica’s Lake Vostok—waters lying 12,100 feet (3,700 meters) below the ice. In 2013, other evidence of life was found 2,624.7 feet (800 meters) under the ice sheet that covers Lake Whillans in Antarctica. Scientists found cells containing DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) in the subglacial lake—cells that were actively using oxygen. Although some scientists believe the cells were from contamination by the surrounding ice, the scientists who discovered the cells cited two main reasons to support their claim: the water contained cell concentrations about one hundred times higher than the cell count in the glacier’s meltwater, and the minerals in the lake water were at least one hundred times higher than the glacier’s melt-water. The scientists also estimated that the water in the subglacial lake—and thus, the cells—had probably been cut off from the surface for 100,000 years.


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