Beneath the icy surface of a buried Antarctic brine lake, a diverse community of bacteria has survived for thousands of years.
Beneath the icy surface of a buried Antarctic lake, in super-salty water devoid of light and oxygen that is also cold enough to freeze seawater, researchers have now discovered that a diverse community of bacteria has survived for millennia.
The findings shed light on the extreme limits at which life can live not just on Earth, but possibly alien worlds, scientists added.
Researchers analyzed Lake Vida, which lies encapsulated within ice at least 60 feet (18 meters) beneath Antarctica's surface. Past studies revealed the brine in the lake has been isolated from the surface for at least 2,800 years.
"That ice is so thick, nothing from the outside can get down to the water naturally,"researcher Peter Doran, an earth scientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said from a research outpost on Antarctica. (Strangest Places Where Life Is Found on Earth)
To examine the brine, the researchers used drills and heated pipes to delve downward. To avoid contaminating this isolated ecosystem, researchers set up a "clean room" on top of the hole, wearing the type of white suits used in electronics and germ labs to keep conditions as sterile and free of contamination as possible.