A U.S. research team has drilled 800 meters into the ice sheet that covers Lake Whillans in Antarctica (the team’s camp pictured here in 2011) and retrieved the first signs of life from a subglacial lake. Credit: WISSARD/NSF

Under hundreds of meters of ice lies Antarctica’s network of lakes and rivers. Three research teams have attempted to sample the subglacial lakes Ellsworth, Whillans and Vostok. Credit: WISSARD/NSF

Life found deep below Antarctic ice

U.S. team drills through half-mile-thick sheet of ice to turn up cells

By Janet Raloff
Web edition: February 1, 2013

Cells containing DNA have emerged as the first evidence of life in a subglacial lake in West Antarctica. On January 28, a U.S. research team retrieved water from Lake Whillans, which sits 800 meters below the ice surface. The water hosted a surprising bounty of living cells.

The scientists collected three 10-liter water samples from the lake. Preliminary tests conducted in mobile labs show that the cells are actively using oxygen. It may take months for biologists to identify the microbes present.

The microbes have been sealed off below the ice for at least 100,000 years.

Read more: Life found deep below Antarctic ice | Earth | Science News.

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