American scientists beat Bristol-led team to find life beneath Antarctic ice
A TEAM of American scientists have succeeded where a Bristol-led team failed in December – in finding traces of life buried deep beneath the ice of Antarctica.
Cells containing DNA have emerged as the first evidence of life in a subglacial lake in West Antarctica, reports science journal ScienceNews.org
The American researchers retrieved water from Lake Whillans, which sits 800 meters below the ice surface, isolated from the outside world for at least 100,000 years.
But after drilling down and inserting a probe, the scientists discovered the water hosts a surprising bounty of living cells.
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The discovery stretches science's understanding of the resilience of life, and could have significant implications for an increased probability that some form of life may exist on other planets.
The Bristol-led team aborted their mission at Lake Ellsworth after suffering a catastrophic drill failure over Christmas.
But Professor Martin Siegert, the Bristol University scientist who was principal investigator on the subglacial Lake Ellsworth experiment welcomed the news of the Americans' success.
"This is a big deal – and exciting," he said. "The U.S. team's drilling endeavour marks the first clean access to a subglacial lake system."