Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Researchers Discover Evidence Of Microscopic Life At The South Pole

Date:
July 7, 2000
Source:
National Science Foundation
Summary:
In a finding that may extend the known limits of life on Earth, researchers supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) have discovered evidence that microbes may be able to survive the heavy doses of ultraviolet radiation and the extreme cold and darkness of the South Pole.

In a finding that may extend the known limits of life on Earth, researchers supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) have discovered evidence that microbes may be able to survive the heavy doses of ultraviolet radiation and the extreme cold and darkness of the South Pole.

The team's findings, published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, the journal of the American Society for Microbiology, indicate that a population of active bacteria, some of which have DNA sequences that align closely with species in the genus Deinococcus, exists at the South Pole in the austral summer. A similar species lives elsewhere in Antarctica, but the discovery of microbes at the Pole may mean that the bacteria have become uniquely adapted to the extreme conditions there, including a scarcity of liquid water.

A species in the genus Deinococcus was first discovered in cans of irradiated meat in the 1950’s, and is able to withstand extreme dryness and large doses of radiation. It is possible that the related bacteria from the South Pole may also possess these characteristics.

"While we expected to find some bacteria in the South Pole snow, we were surprised that they were metabolically active and synthesizing DNA and protein at local ambient temperatures of -12 to -17 Celsius (10.4 to 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit)," said Edward J. Carpenter, of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, who headed the research team. "Before attempting to publish the results, we wanted to be certain that the data were correct and were able to duplicate the observations in a second field season during January 2000."

Antarctica was once part of a supercontinent called Gondwanaland and drifted into its present position only about 60 million years ago. Deinococcus, however, is thought to be one of the earlier branches in the bacterial tree, and is much older than Antarctica in its present location. It is therefore unlikely that it evolved in Antarctica.

If the team's conclusions prove true, the discovery not only has important implications for the search for life in other extreme environments on Earth, but also for the possibility that life -- at least at the microscopic level -- may exist elsewhere in the solar system. Furthermore, the snow bacteria may possess unique enzymes and membranes able to cope with a subzero existence.

The team was careful to take samples at the edge of the clean-air sector at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station to prevent contamination of the samples by bacteria from human habitation. The containers of bacteria were flown, still frozen, within 24 hours to the Albert P. Crary Science and Engineering Center at NSF's McMurdo Station for analysis. In examining the snowmelt, the researchers found coccoid and rod-shaped bacteria, some of which appeared to be dividing.

The findings by Carpenter and his colleagues, Senjie Lin, of the University of Connecticut, and Douglas Capone, of the University of Southern California, also may be significant because a separate team of NSF-supported investigators reported that ice cores taken at Lake Vostok, deep in the Antarctic interior, indicate the presence of microbes in what is suspected to be a vast pool of liquid water thousands of meters below the Antarctic ice sheet. That finding may have similar implications for extending the known limits of life.

For more information see http://www.nsf.gov/home/crssprgm/lexen/


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Science Foundation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Science Foundation. "Researchers Discover Evidence Of Microscopic Life At The South Pole." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 July 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/07/000707081312.htm>.
National Science Foundation. (2000, July 7). Researchers Discover Evidence Of Microscopic Life At The South Pole. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/07/000707081312.htm
National Science Foundation. "Researchers Discover Evidence Of Microscopic Life At The South Pole." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/07/000707081312.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) The South's tobacco country is surviving, and even thriving in some cases, as demand overseas keeps growers in the fields of one of America's oldest cash crops. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Scientists say a female colossal squid weighing an estimated 350 kilograms (770 lbs) and thought to be only the second intact specimen ever found was carrying eggs when discovered in the Antarctic. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ivorians Abandon Monkey Pets in Fear Over Ebola Virus

Ivorians Abandon Monkey Pets in Fear Over Ebola Virus

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Since the arrival of Ebola in Ivory Coast, Ivorians have been abandoning their pets, particularly monkeys, in the fear that they may transmit the virus. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

      Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins