Researcher focused on the Antarctica region provided some groundbreaking results. Literally groundbreaking, as they managed to obtain samples of material from an underground Antarctican lake placed at 800 meters behind the surface.
Lake Whillans from Western Antarctica has almost 400 microbial species, according to an article published on Wednesday in Nature journal. “We found not just that things are alive, but that there’s an active ecosystem,” said for LiveScience lead study author Brent Christner, a microbiologist at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. “If you had to think up what would be the coolest scenario for an ecosystem in Antarctica, you couldn’t make this up.”
This is an exciting result from several points of view. Fact is we do not know everything about the planets’ oceans and Polar Regions. We might know more about outer space than about Mariana Trench. What we do know about Antarctica fauna is that there are not too many terrestrial animals. In fact, an insect is the largest endemic terrestrial animal to Antarctica.
Underground Antarctican Lake may be similar to other celestial bodies’ environment
Antarctica is filled with internal lakes. Around 400 lakes allegedly lie under the thick icy crust and many of them may be connected through various underground rivers. Lake Whillans is merely 2 meters deep, 60 square km in size and is refilled with water every five to ten years. Actually, researchers drilled Lake Whillans in 2013. They were highly concerned with contamination issues, so the drilling equipment had to be able to self-decontaminate while drilling. They managed return to the U.S. with 30 liters of Lake Whillans water, which they distributed among various research centers.
Antarctica seems to be the closest Earth environment to extraterrestrial ones. So research in Antarctica is highly relevant to outer space research. Moreover, we already know almost for sure that several of Jupiter satellites have icy crusts. Due to the motion around the planet, Europe and Callisto might have warm or even hot cores, meaning that there are chances to find liquid water. As such, the discovery of a rich microbial life under the thick Antarctica ice sheet is even more important.
One of the most important findings is that life in an underground Antarctican lake is not too different from a surface lake. Lake Whillans appears to have a very rich ecosystem. Organisms feed on carbon, sulfur and oxygen in a highly structured trophic chain, Live Science mentions.