Russian scientists report new DNA under subglacial Lake Vostok

Illustration of the drilling operation to Lake Vostok in Antarctica. U.S. National Science Foundation

Russian scientists are reporting to Russian State Media, RIA Novosti, that they found new signs of life after examining water samples from the subglacial Lake Vostok. They have been looking for the samples since Jan. 10, when they extracted an ice core from the area.

"After excluding all known contaminants, we discovered bacterial DNA that does not match any known species listed in global databanks," Sergei Bulat, a researcher at the Laboratory of Eukaryote Genetics at the St. Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute, told RIA Novosti. "We call it unidentified and 'unclassified' life."

The researchers said that seven species of bacteria were found in the frozen water in 2012. The DNA match to any known organisms never went past 86 percent, so it is considered to be an unknown form of life. Anything under 90 percent is considered enough to designate a new species.

"If it were found on Mars, people would call it Martian DNA. But this is DNA from Earth," Bulat told RIA Novosti.

Scientists and researchers will continue to test the organisms to solidify the new sample. The United States took a sample from the shallower Lake Whillans earlier this year and is attempting to prove the same thing, while Great Brittan's attempt to drill at Lake Ellsworth was called off due to technical problems with drilling.

The frozen body of water is located near the South Pole, and is the largest of the regions 400 sub glacial lakes.

  • Shoshana Davis

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