Biologists, geologists, and ocean scientists from the United States and Australia reported what is to date the oldest known ice bound colony of living bacteria in the November 26, 2012, issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The bacteria were discovered in Lake Vida located in Victoria Valley, the northern most of the McMurdo Dry Valleys of East Antarctica.
The habitat is ice bound and has been for at least the last 2800 years. The average temperature of the salt water habitat is negative 13 degrees centigrade.
Bacteria from eight phyla (Proteobacteria, Lentisphaera, Firmicutes, Spirochaeta, Bacteroidetes, Verrucomicrobia, TM7, and Actinobacteria) were found. Several phyla had not previously been observed in high salinity systems (Epsilonproteobacteria, Verrucomicrobia, TM7, and Lentisphaera).
Life will out even in the most extreme conditions.
Sufficient inorganic metals, gases (NO2, CO2), carbon based and non carbon based nutrients exist in the 27 meter deep environment to provide sufficient energy sources for life to be maintained without oxygen while encased in ice.
Cell division was observed in several species as well as the formation of cellular systems that are common in other extremophiles.
Great care was exercised in the extraction and examination of these species to prevent any potential for human contact and the potential for disease produced from uniquely developed species of known bacteria.
Microbial life at -13 °C in the brine of an ice-sealed Antarctic lake
Alison E. Murray a,1, Fabien Kenig b, Christian H. Fritsen a, Christopher P. McKay c, Kaelin M. Cawley d,2, Ross Edwards e, Emanuele Kuhn a, Diane M. McKnight d, Nathaniel E. Ostrom f, Vivian Peng a, Adrian Ponce g, John C. Priscu h, Vladimir Samarkin i, Ashley T. Townsend j, Protima Wagh a, Seth A. Young k, Pung To Yung g, and Peter T. Doran b
a Division of Earth and Ecosystem Sciences, Desert Research Institute, Reno, NV 89512; b Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL 60607; c Space Science Division, National Aeronautics and Space Administration Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA 94035; d Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309; e Department of Imaging and Applied Physics, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, WA, 6845 Australia; f Department of Zoology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1115; g Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA 91109; h Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT 59717; i Department of Marine Sciences, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602; j Central Science Laboratory, University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS, 7001 Australia; and k Department of Geological Sciences, Indiana University, IN 47405-1405