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DISCOVERY SUGGESTS LIFE ON OTHER PLANETS: Ecosystems found in Arctic lakes surprises researchers

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
8/21/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Healthy, thriving organisms found in sub-zero conditions may mean life on icy planets

The Arctic regions of our Earth, where there is very little marine or animal life seem at first incapable of sustaining organisms. However - recent discoveries at both Lake Vostok and Lake Whillans have uncovered healthy ecosystems of microbial life. According to scientists, this could mean similar life forms on other planets with icy climes, such as Saturn and Jupiter.

It came as a most welcome surprise, as scientists were not on a life-hunting expeditions. The indirect sampling process later raised questions about those results.

It came as a most welcome surprise, as scientists were not on a life-hunting expeditions. The indirect sampling process later raised questions about those results.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
8/21/2014 (2 years ago)

Published in Green

Keywords: Micro -organisms, Arctic, Lake Vostok, Lake Whillans


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - More importantly, it raises the prospect that similar species could have lived -- or are still living on Mars. NASA's Curiosity rover mission has found that the planet most similar to Earth in the solar system once had the chemical constituents needed to support microbial life.

A new study has confirmed initial studies 20 years ago that found microbes in refrozen water samples retrieved from Lake Vostok, the largest sub-glacial Antarctic lake.

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A new study has confirmed initial studies 20 years ago that found microbes in refrozen water samples

A new study has confirmed initial studies 20 years ago that found microbes in refrozen water samples retrieved from Lake Vostok, the largest sub-glacial Antarctic lake.


It came as a most welcome surprise, as scientists were not on a life-hunting expeditions. The indirect sampling process later raised questions about those results.

"People weren't really thinking about ecosystems underneath the ice. The conventional wisdom was that they don't exist, it's a place that's too extreme for this kind of thing," Louisiana State University biologist Brent Christner says.

Christner and colleagues analyzed samples directly retrieved from another sub-glacial lake. Lake Whillans is beneath about a half-mile of ice on the lower portion of the Whillans Ice Stream in West Antarctica.

Researchers have since retrieved samples of healthy bacteria and other microorganisms living in a fr

Researchers have since retrieved samples of healthy bacteria and other microorganisms living in a freshwater lake buried beneath a half mile of ice on the frigid continent.


Scientists discovered at least 3,931 microbial species or groups of species in the lake waters, many of which use inorganic compounds as an energy source.

It's not probable that water has made its way through the half-mile of ice to reach the lake. Scientists instead believe the water comes from geothermal heating at the base of the lake and through frictional melting during ice flows.

The discovery of life underneath the ice sheets covering Antarctica raises the tantalizing possibility that similar severe environments in our solar system could harbor some form of life, scientists say.

Scientists discovered at least 3,931 microbial species or groups of species in the lake waters, many

Scientists discovered at least 3,931 microbial species or groups of species in the lake waters, many of which use inorganic compounds as an energy source.


Researchers have since retrieved samples of healthy bacteria and other microorganisms living in a freshwater lake buried beneath a half mile of ice on the frigid continent.

Researchers say that Lake Whillans might not be all that different from environments on a number of the icy moons of Saturn and Jupiter.

Both Europa, a moon of Jupiter and Enceladus, which circles Saturn have been found to possess large amounts of liquid water lying beneath their icy crusts.

Drilling down into the depths of Lake Whillans, scientists were surprised to find almost 4,000 microbial species living in the dark water, many of them dining on inorganic compounds as their primary energy source.

"People weren't really thinking about ecosystems underneath the ice," biologist Brent Christner of Louisiana State University says. "The conventional wisdom was that they don't exist, it's a place that's too extreme for this kind of thing."

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