Today scientists formalized the news we broke from the field early last year — microbial life has been found 2,600 feet below the surface of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet in Lake Whillans. A paper published in Nature today reports that nearly 4,000 species of microbes inhabit the lake, the first organisms ever retrieved from a subglacial Antarctic lake. The microbes are chemoautotrophs, meaning they get their energy not from sunlight nor from consuming other organisms but from minerals dissolved in the water. This possibility was first flagged up by the high concentrations of dissolved minerals in the lake, far higher than in the surrounding ice. “The fact that we see high concentrations is suggestive that there’s some interesting water-rock-microbe interaction that’s going on,” Andrew Mitchell, a microbial geochemist from Aberystwyth University in the UK, said at the time. via DiscoverMagazine.com.
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