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Lake under Antarctic ice bursts with life

Multitude of microbes thrives in the icy waters

8:30am, August 21, 2014

HOT WATER  Steam billows from an ice-melting machine. Scientists pumped the warmed water into the Antarctic ice sheet to burrow to a life-filled subglacial lake 800 meters below.

In January 2013, researchers pulled the first water samples from a dark, frigid lake sealed beneath the Antarctic ice sheet. Within hours, they announced they had found live cells in the water (SN: 3/9/13, p. 12). Now after remaining tightlipped for 19 months, the team reports in the Aug. 21 Nature that the lake doesn't just contain microbial life, it teems with it.

“The number of microorganisms we saw in the water was very comparable with what you’d find in a typical surface lake or in the ocean,” says microbiologist and lead author Brent Christner of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. “We were very surprised.”

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