Navigation Links
Ancient ecosystem thrives millions of years below Antarctic glacier
Date:4/16/2009

BOZEMAN, Mont. -- Scientists have found an ancient ecosystem below an Antarctic glacier and learned that it survived millions of years by transforming sulfur and iron compounds for growth.

Described in the April 17 issue of Science, the ecosystem lives without light or oxygen in a pool of brine trapped below Taylor Glacier and next to frozen Lake Bonney in eastern Antarctica, said John Priscu, co-author of the Science article. Priscu is a longtime Antarctic researcher and professor in the Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences at Montana State University. The ecosystem contains a diversity of bacteria that thrive in cold, salty water loaded with iron and sulfur. The water averages 14 degrees Fahrenheit, but doesn't freeze because the water is three or four times saltier than the ocean.

The scientists made a breakthrough discovery when they learned that the bacteria convert key elements on Earth into food, Priscu said. The bacteria cycle sulfur compounds to access iron in the bedrock.

The ecosystem-- because it has been isolated for so long in extreme conditions -- could explain how life might exist on other planets and serve as a model for how life can exist under ice, Priscu said.

Jill Mikucki, lead author of the Science article and a former MSU graduate student, added that life below the glacier may help scientists answer questions about life on "Snowball Earth," the period when large ice sheets covered the Earth. The project also shows the power of multi-disciplinary collaborations, she said. Techniques in biogeochemistry, microbiology and molecular biology and other novel tests were used to figure out how the ecosystem could survive without photosynthesis.

The ecosystem has the "potential to be a modern analog to what geochemistry and biogeochemistry was like millions of years ago," Mikucki continued.

Priscu said researchers discovered the bacteria while investigating Blood Falls, a curious blood-red feature that flows from Taylor Glacier. They learned that the falls are red because they draw water from an iron rich pool, then discovered bacteria in their samples. The most common bacteria in the pool is Thiomicrospira arctica.

The researchers can't drill down to the pool because the glacier is too thick and the pool is too far back from the glacier's nose, Priscu said. The pool is believed to be less than three miles across, however, and a remnant of an ancient ocean that was trapped at least 1.5 million years ago when Taylor Glacier moved over Lake Bonney.

Priscu said scientists have known about Blood Falls for more than 100 years, and his research teams have collected data from there since the early 1990s. The Science paper grew out of Mikucki's research at MSU and Harvard University, he added. Mikucki studied Blood Falls for her doctoral degree at MSU and her postdoctoral research at Harvard. Mikucki, whose project was funded by the National Science Foundation, now teaches at Dartmouth College and continues to work with Priscu.

One co-author on the Science article was Peter Lee at the Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, S.C. He was a postdoctoral researcher at MSU when Mikucki was a graduate student. Other co-authors were Ann Pearson, David Johnston and Daniel Schrag of Harvard, Alexandra Turchyn from the University of Cambridge, James Farquhar from the University of Maryland, and Ariel Anbar from Arizona State University.


'/>"/>

Contact: Evelyn Boswell
evelynb@montana.edu
406-994-5135
Montana State University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Ancient diatoms lead to new technology for solar energy
2. Final frontier: Mission to explore buried ancient Antarctic lake given green light
3. Reversing ecology reveals ancient environments
4. Ancient geologic escape hatches mistaken for tube worms
5. Mountain caribous ancient ancestry revealed
6. University of Leicester archaeologist uncovers evidence of ancient chemical warfare
7. Decline of carbon-dioxide-gobbling plankton coincided with ancient global cooling
8. Male crickets with bigger heads are better fighters, study reveals, echoing ancient Chinese text
9. Ancient African exodus mostly involved men, geneticists find
10. Ancient magma superpiles may have shaped the continents
11. Dry spells spelled trouble in ancient China
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:5/9/2016)... , UAE, May 9, 2016 ... when it comes to expanding freedom for high net ... Even in today,s globally connected world, there is ... conferencing system could ever duplicate sealing your deal with ... obtaining second passports by taking advantage of citizenship via ...
(Date:4/26/2016)... LONDON , April 26, 2016 ... EdgeVerve Systems, a product subsidiary of Infosys (NYSE: ... a partnership to integrate the Onegini mobile security ... (Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20151104/283829LOGO ) The ... enhanced security to access and transact across channels. ...
(Date:4/15/2016)... April 15, 2016 Research ... Gait Biometrics Market 2016-2020,"  report to their offering.  ... ) , ,The global gait biometrics market is ... during the period 2016-2020. Gait analysis ... can be used to compute factors that are ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... , June 27, 2016  Liquid Biotech ... announced the funding of a Sponsored Research Agreement ... circulating tumor cells (CTCs) from cancer patients.  The ... in CTC levels correlate with clinical outcomes in ... These data will then be employed to support ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... ... Researchers at the Universita Politecnica delle Marche in Ancona combed medical journal ... Their findings are the subject of a new article on the Surviving Mesothelioma website. ... the blood, lung fluid or tissue of mesothelioma patients that can help point doctors ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 2016 A person commits a crime, and the ... track the criminal down. An outbreak of foodborne ... Administration (FDA) uses DNA evidence to track down the bacteria ... far-fetched? It,s not. The FDA has increasingly used a complex, ... foodborne illnesses. Put as simply as possible, whole genome sequencing ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 2016   EpiBiome , a precision microbiome engineering ... debt financing from Silicon Valley Bank (SVB). The financing ... advance its drug development efforts, as well as purchase ... "SVB has been an incredible strategic partner to us ... bank would provide," said Dr. Aeron Tynes Hammack ...
Breaking Biology Technology: