*sigh* Two years ago, this time, I was packing my bags for Antarctica. *sigh*
As much as I would like to go back, I could never afford it… so I need to figure out how to get on one of these research teams working in Antarctica.
See, abiogenesis, life on other planets– that is not just a thought game physicists play. There are scientists– microbiologists, virologists, biochemists, geologists– who try to find and study life in the most extreme locations on Earth, to try to figure out what ‘life’ could look like say, on Mars, or Europa.
Its not a game.
Its the research they perform day-in-day-out.
A group just found bacteria (and where there are bacteria, there are bacteriophage!!!) in a, frankly, absurd location:
The lake in question: Lake Vida
Its closer to the New Zeland/Austalia side of Antarctica, so nowhere close to where I got to visit. It is covered with ice year round (for now). Not, like, a few feet of ice. About 69 feet of ice! Year round!
Not only that, but the dirt around the lake is frozen too (again, for now)… which means the water in this lake has been isolated from in/out flow, isolated from the rest of the world, for >2800 years.
Lets get to the water in the lake– First of all, no one even knew there was liquid in this lake until 2002, they thought it was just solid ice. Well, there is. Its a nice almost-neutral pH of 6.2, but it just gets crazy from there. The water is -13 C. The only way there can be liquid water at these low temperatures is if there is a TON of salt in it, and there is. The Dead Sea has a salt level at 40 ‘Practical Salinity Units’. Lake Vida is at 188 PSU.
There is a nice mish-mash of metal ions (Ca, Cl, Mg, Al, Feetc), bubbling of gasses (N2O, CO2), but not a smidgen of oxygen.
Oh, and a ton of bacteria.
Not dead/frozen bacteria– Very live bacteria, happily (but slowly!) generating proteins in their hypersaline, super cold, no oxygen, ton of iron environment!
And not just one kind of bacteria– lots of different phyla, some of which have never been observed in a hypersaline environment before!
Maybe Ive been thinking too small. Maybe I dont want to research in Antarctica… might be more fun to go to Europa with a shovel…