MOSCOW: More than three kilometers below the sub-glacial lake in Antarctica, Russian scientists have reportedly found a type of bacterial life, unknown to mankind before.
The scientists were studying samples from Lake Vostok when they came across the life form buried in the Antarctic.
“After putting aside all possible elements of contamination, DNA was found that did not coincide with any of the well-known types in the global database,” said Sergei Bulat, of the genetics laboratory at the St Petersburg Institute of Nuclear Physics.
Last year, the scientists drilled through about four kilometers of ice to reach the lake, which is cut off from the surface for millions of years.
The discovery has raised the possibility that such isolated bodies of water might host microbial life forms new to science.
“After excluding all known contaminants…we discovered bacterial DNA that does not match any known species listed in global databanks. We call it unidentified and ‘unclassified’ life,” Sergei Bulat said according to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.
“If it were found on Mars, people would call it Martian DNA. But this is DNA from Earth,” Bulat added.
The maximum similarity between the recently discovered bacteria’s DNA with that of an already existing life forms is 86 percent.
“A level of 90 percent usually means that the organism is unknown,” Bulat told British TV.
It took years for the scientists to plan and implement the drilling project. The lake is located in the centre if the East Antarctic Ice Sheet and holds one of the most inhospitable environments on the planet with the lowest ever temperature of -89C recorded on Earth in July 1983.
The Russians set up Vostok Station in 1956, and their seismic soundings suggested the presence of liquid underneath all the ice. However in the 1990s, British scientists determined the full extent of the sub-glacial feature with the help of radar.
Lake Vostok has a total area of 15,000 square km and is more than 800m deep. It is very similar to the size of Lake Baikal in Siberia or Lake Ontario in North America, says a report.
Recently, scientists from USA broke through into another lake in the Antarctic region, Lake Whillans. They also reported the discovery of microbial life in the lake waters, but Whillans is believed to be not as isolated as Vostok.