In ice samples from the subglacial Antarctic Lake Vostok, biologists have discovered a fourth species of bacteria that have lived in isolation for several million years. The head of the cryoastrobiology laboratory of the St. Petersburg Institute of Nuclear Physics Sergey Bulat told about this.
“We recently began to re-examine ice samples from a depth of 3,721 meters from the surface of the Antarctic ice sheet. Inside them we discovered a fourth species of bacteria, 3721v34-24, which, like almost all of their neighbors, were not associated with the already known genera and families of microbes “, – said Bulat.
Lake Vostok is an under-ice body of water in Antarctica, which is located at a depth of about 4 km. Its ecosystem has been isolated for several million years. Russian and British scientists proved the existence of this lake back in 1996, after which they have been exploring it for many years.
The East attracts the attention of not only biologists, but also astrobiologists and specialists in the search for extraterrestrial life, since it is the only recognized terrestrial analogue of the subglacial oceans that exist in the bowels of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, such as Europa or Enceladus.
In particular, over the past five years, Bulat and his colleagues have discovered three types of bacteria in the first pure ice samples from the lake. Two of them belonged to previously unknown genera and families of microbes, representatives of which were not met by scientists outside the East. Now researchers have found a fourth new species.
The closest possible relatives of these organisms are bacteria from the Bacteroidetes family, whose genome is 87% similar to the DNA structure of various strains of the microbe 3721v34-24. From the point of view of microbiology, this is very small, so now scientists cannot attribute the open species to any known families and genera of bacteria.
Biologists hope that studying the genetic structure of these organisms will help to understand how life can exist in such conditions for many millions of years.