It's Alive! Microbes Discovered Deep Beneath Antarctic Ice

August 20, 2014 10:29 PM

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It's Alive! Microbes Discovered Deep Beneath Antarctic Ice

Antarctica, the coldest place on Earth, teems with microscopic life. Tiny organisms dwell on the ice and live inside glaciers, and now, researchers confirm, a rich microbial ecosystem persists underneath the thick ice sheet, where no sunlight has been felt for millions of years.

Nearly 4,000 species of microbes inhabit Lake Whillans, which lies beneath 2,625 feet (800 meters) of ice in West Antarctica, researchers reported Wednesday (Aug. 20) in the journal Nature. These are the first organisms ever retrieved from a subglacial Antarctic lake.

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