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An unexpected discovery in a lake lying a kilometer below the ice of Antarctica

marianomarianoPosted for Everyone to comment on, 3 years ago3 min read


A group of American scientists has finally managed to drill through a kilometer layer of ice and take samples from thousands of years cut off from the world of Lake Mercer. The remains of small animals and tardigrades were found there.

As part of the Subglacial Antarctic Lakes Scientific Access (SALSA) expedition, geologists and paleontologists conducted a study of a mysterious lake located one kilometer under ice and snow of areas located about 600 kilometers from the South Pole. From published scientific papers we can learn that the research has yielded unexpected, and even sensational results can be said.

For a long time, the scientific world has wanted to study Lake Antarctica cut off from the world, to finally find out if life existed or existed there, and if so, what it looks like and whether it resembles that from other continents. We now have knowledge of a substitute for what hides this fascinating continent. And to think that the best discoveries are yet to come.

Only the diatom shells and photosynthetic algae from millions of years ago were expected to be discovered in Lake Mercer, and in addition to them miniature crustacean shells with legs and tardigrades appeared. Most interestingly, fungi and bacteria of up to 10,000 per milliliter and life-giving oxygen were also discovered there, thanks to which the microfauna could exist there peacefully.

Scientists indicate that these creatures could have inhabited the lakes and streams of the Transantarctic Mountains 10 to 12 thousand years ago, when the climate in Antarctica be exceptionally mild. Subsequent cooling and accumulation of ice cut off the lake from the world by a kilometer layer for thousands of years. Despite the fact that dead microorganisms were found there, scientists indicate that they could have existed for up to 5,000 years.

Now the team will be researching the microfauna they found in Mercer Lake. Tardigans, crustaceans, bacteria and fungi will undergo DNA sequencing and radiocarbon dating to see if they have something to do with species inhabiting other parts of the world and how old they are. Researchers intend to check whether they lived in access to a large amount of light or a small and whether they functioned in salt or fresh water. They also compare acquired data with previous studies.

This undoubtedly a sensational discovery and the upcoming analysis of the obtained microfauna samples will allow us to learn more about the climate prevailing on this most mysterious continent, which is often described by its explorers as an alien world on the Blue Planet.

Source: Nature
Photo: SALSA

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