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Antarctic ecosystem holds unusual microbes

Long isolated, they thrive in dark, salty water and breathe iron

A frigid, sulfate-rich pool of anoxic, hypersaline water that hasn’t seen the sun since it was capped by a 400-meter-thick Antarctic glacier at least 1.5 million years ago is host to microbes that derive energy by breathing iron scraped from bedrock.

“This briny pond is a unique sort of time capsule,” says Jill Mikucki, a geomicrobiologist now at Dartmouth College. “I don’t know of any other environment quite like this on earth.”

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