Researchers at Antarctica's Lake Whillans have found early signs of microbes that may live beneath the surface of the ice. Discover reports that the team found cells in a sample of water taken from 2,600 feet under a glacial surface: under a microscope, they glowed green when exposed to DNA-sensitive dye. This doesn't necessarily confirm life; to do that, the team will need to show that the cells will grow as well, a process that will take longer. It's also not clear what kind of cells they might be, though researchers have said they probably have access to oxygen from tiny pockets in the ice. It's possible they subsist on iron or sulfur, like the archaea found in Yellowstone or other harsh environments.
The American Lake Whillans team is one of three that's attempting to find life beneath Antarctica. A British project was called off for the near future, and while a Russian one successfully recovered and analyzed samples late last year, Discover now says the microbes they found under Lake Vostok likely came from the drilling fluid, not the lake. AsThe New York Times reported earlier this year, Lake Whillans is smaller than the other potential drill sites, and water is replenished more frequently from other sources, so research from the other teams is still important. But it's possible we finally have the first hard evidence of life in Antarctic lakes.
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